When I was young, I found a Nike advertisement and kept it pinned on my bulletin board, next to a dried corsage and athletic pins with photos of me posing with a volleyball. You may know exactly what I am talking about. A collage of photos and knick knacks that represent you, proof that you are your own person. No one else. Years (and years) later, with thoughts of my puffy, permed ponytail and volleyball pose tucked deep within the far corners of my mind, I would be walking down a staircase at the Nike headquarters and come face to face with that same advertisement, this time large enough to cover the entire wall. It read:
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE YOUR MOTHER unless she is who you want to be. You do not have to be your mother’s mother, or even your grandmother’s mother on your father’s side. You may inherit their chins or their hips or their eyes, but you are not destined to become the women who came before you, you are not destined to live their lives. So if you inherit something, inherit their strength. If you inherit something, inherit their resilience. Because the only person you are destined to become is the person YOU DECIDE to be.
Suddenly, it read differently.
I appreciate the “Be yourself” theme.
I get the “Inherit their strength.”
I still love this saying.
But the reasons why have changed.
At the time, maybe it was the emphasis of not having to be like my mother? As a teenager, I think it is pretty common to NOT want to be like mom. Even more so, I believe it was the underlying theme of being strong, to have the strength to be yourself. The fact that I was so drawn to this advertisement back in my teens was because my mom (and of course, my dad), raised me with the courage to be aware that I will always be strong enough. Why, I do believe it was my mother who had the saying, “My daughter will not marry a doctor, she will be the doctor” magnetically pinned to the yellow refrigerator door. And when my fashion senses told me to buy a men’s tie at the GAP and wear it to school, I did it (despite the laughs) and my mom was the person to drive me to school and drop me off.
I WANT to be like my mom and I want someone to tell me I have the qualities of my Grandma Magers and my Grandma Markovich. I pay homage to their strength and their resilience. My Grandma Magers was a widow in her fifties, left to raise three of her six kids alone. As a young girl, she had to quit college because her father became paralyzed and she needed to be home to take care of him. Yet, she was an artist and never gave up her passion.
My grandma Markovich had only a sixth grade education and left to work at the Kellogg factory to help support her Croatian parents and siblings. She married my grandfather, they opened a neighborhood grocery market and she raised her sons to be admirable, kind and giving men.
As for my mom, she is an Aquarius and a dreamer. She is not always practical, but she makes things happen. She has taught me to look people in the eye when I am speaking and being spoken too. To always write down a person’s name to whom you are conversing when calling customer service (and reference them by name during the conversation) and that wine is delicious. Her smile lights up a room and she is more than willing to try something new. She is more of a rock for our family than I have EVER imagined and she loves my father fiercely. For all of that, I love her beyond these words.
My life is far different than my grandmothers and even from my mom. I am different, as we all are and have our own path to follow. However, these women I have followed in this life, I am indebted too. They were not wealthy nor did they have higher educations. They did not make names for themselves for all to read about in history books. But damn, if they weren’t strong. Strong, crazy, funny, idealistic, realistic, loving, kind and amazing. I am a lucky girl.
Happy Mother’s Day to each of you. Not only to do I owe so much to my mom and my grandmas, but I am inspired everyday by the incredible women (moms or not) that I know and meet. For THAT, I am even more lucky.