Amaya Rain

Wife. Mother. Crazy woman.

Talkin’ ’bout my Generation.

I come from a line of strong-willed women on my mother’s side (my father’s side as well, but I’m not going there, because, well, I don’t like them as much as the women on my father’s side. There. I said it. Neener neener ppphtt). And while I know that my personality, and my actions as a mother come from them, I think I need to put in all down in writing to get some perspective. I think I’ll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

My great-grandmother was a firecracker. When I was young, I thought she was just your typical Grannie-type: old. She lived out of state, so my time with her was limited, but oh, the things we did in that time. She would bring me outside to her vegetable and flower gardens and let me run around while she would weed and pick and pluck and would make sure to leave some yummies for the birds. She’d let me watch all manner of crazy kid things (like Sonny and Cher) on her tv and wait to catch her beloved 700 Club after I was done. She’d just sit and hold me, or sit on the other side of her television parlor and let me spin in this really great green spinning chair. To me, she was everything that was wonderful and good in the world. She was selfless and beautiful and a wonderful old fashioned woman.

As I got older, I noticed some of her “faults”. As it turns out, she was actually rather vain and hung up on “appearances” – she’d never go anywhere without being well-groomed, wearing her pink lipstick and lavender water. She picked only the best fruit or vegetable from the vine, and would leave the less beautiful specimens for the birds. I caught her cringing out of the corner of my eye, and realized that she’d change the channel the split-second that my show was over. She had lots to say about politics and society that I wasn’t sure agreed with (her favorite line whenever “mixed marriages” were brought up was “girls marry boys, whites marry whites”.) And although everyone in my family had a great laugh about it (and still do), I really didn’t appreciate that as I played with a loose tooth, she’d knocked the hell out of my arm to get me to yank it out rather than watch me play with it.

Then I got even older. And I saw a woman who had bucked the system as a younger woman – she’d been married four times to three men, and had beat the crap out of the woman who was the mistress of Husband #2&3 (the court didn’t prosecute her because she was “protecting her family”). She was strong, having taken care of not only her own siblings but in later years, the aging siblings of herself and her ex-husbands. She was an elderly woman with strong values of family and spirituality, no matter how outdated or misguided I thought they may be. She’d been through the Roaring 20’s, the Depression, two world wars, survived miscarriages and stillbirths of children. She was a perfectionist in so many things, and she’d learned that after so many years, she deserved the best, and she gave her best to others as well.

She certainly wasn’t perfect – no one ever is. But she strived to be as good as she could in everything she did. She didn’t have the vanity of the rich, well, barring that facelift she had in the 70’s. She drove an old, but well-kept, car. She had an old, but well-kept home. A lot of her clothing was probably decades old, but it was really all of classic design and quality construction and some of it I’d love to have my hands on today. She may have always chosen the prettiest produce, but she never sacrificed taste for beauty.

I think I could say she was a perfectionist who knew when to quit.

I can’t say that about myself. I call myself a disillusioned perfectionist. I quit when I can’t take the pressure anymore, that enormous amount of self-induced pressure. In building my wardrobe, I look for comfort or trend, never finding a middle ground, never finding that classic feel that I loved so much on her and admire so much in others. I may choose pretty produce, but it tastes like crap, or I may pick ugly produce and not care how it tastes. I go without makeup for weeks on end (and did before the babies, so I can’t blame them) with my hair in a wild bun on the top of my head, or else I am in full regalia. And let’s please, please not talk about when I go out for the rare night out on the town. I can stress for a week about how perfect I feel I need to look. If I can’t find that perfection, then I usually put on a little lipstick and pull my hair up and apologize about how traffic made me late or the washer broke or something. I’m finally married, and plan to be that way forever, but I almost married two other men before him, and dated a whole bunch more, so I suppose I gave my nod to my great-grandmother’s man-choosing (in)abilities (I also took one back, numerous times).

It has taken a while, but I think I can finally look at the woman as a person, and not the shining light on the pedestal or the rug beneath it. And I can look at bits and pieces of her, and see parts of myself. Unfortunately, I don’t see the parts of her that I really admired.

Maybe I need to work on that.

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July 8, 2006 Posted by | Ancestors, Heredity, Perfectionism, Reminiscing | Leave a comment