It seems like, on social media anyway, the generations are all at each other’s throats lately. The divisions between Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z and beyond run deep. I know there are times I struggle to see things from my own mother’s perspective and she from mine.
After I finished writing Elusive Magic, which I absolutely consider to be an ode to Gen X women, I couldn’t help thinking about how my mother would respond to it. (I suspect it will not be her favorite of my books, but I could be wrong.) That led me to think about the fact that she has three daughters, and there isn’t a weak one among us. I think that says as much about her as it does about us. To have raised not one but three strong women speaks to her character.
And then I thought about my grandmother, with a third-grade education, married at 17. A mother to twins shortly after. She was so poor that by the time she had her third baby, she started losing teeth from lack of calcium. She grew up thinking her name was Norma Lee, only to find out well into adulthood it was actually Barbara Ann. How does something like that happen? Her mother wanted to name her Barbara Ann, her father wanted to name her Norma Lee. Mom was afraid of Dad, but also knew Dad couldn’t read. So, she said, “Sure honey, whatever you want” and then filled out the birth certificate the way she damn well pleased.
Maybe the seeds of my tenacity go back further than my mother.
One of my mom’s earliest memories was of my grandmother running to change out of shorts and into a skirt when Poppo showed up unexpectedly. (Poppo = the dad who couldn’t read and thought his daughter was named Norma Lee.) I could go into family lore about Poppo, but I won’t. They aren’t my stories to tell. Suffice it to say, Grandma had good reason to not let him see her breaking one of his rules. He was a hard man. But that didn’t stop her from trying, from pushing the boundaries of her world where she could.
I never met my grandma, not that I remember anyway. She died when I was one. She and I share middle names. I have her sewing kit on my nightstand. And I have her Bible, with a note in the front that says: Follow this, honey, and you’ll never go wrong.
I’ve always felt a connection to this woman. I do not know her, but I feel her spirit living on in me. The little boundaries she pushed turned my mother into the kind of woman who raised three girls alone (Daddy was in the Air Force, always off on TDY or just doing his own thing.) Once, a hurricane was descending on our stretch of Florida. She’d heard looting was bad on the evacuation routes, so she tucked an ax under her seat just to be sure she got her girls out safely.
My mother is absolutely the proper Southern lady who would tell her girls to fix their makeup and hide their crazy. But she’s also the kind of five-foot-tall warrior who would wield and ax to protect her babies.
The world these women lived in is not the world I live in. I cannot judge them anymore than I can judge my nieces, who live in a different world still. We are links in a chain reaching across the span of time, all the way back to Eve. The same chain, and yet each link so very different, subject to different environments, different stressors. So much so that it can be difficult to remember how connected one is to the other.
All we can do, as women, is our best. We can support each other. Mentor each other. Learn from one another. And, perhaps, show a little grace.
Elusive Magic: Now Available for Preorder
Some might call it a midlife crisis, but Josie Novak prefers to think of it as a midlife awakening.
With her relationship in shambles and her career floundering, Josie is at a crossroads. Enter fairy godmother aka best friend Brigitte, offering Josie a chance to make the dream of opening her own bar a reality.
But achieving dreams is not an easy thing, especially when you’re dating over forty and helping friends through the highs and lows of marriages, babies being born and babies leaving home, and all the other things life throws at this group of women as they navigate modern-day femininity.
Both heart-wrenchingly sad and laugh-out-loud funny, this forty-something coming of age story teaches Josie that being a woman might not be a fairy tale, but it is an elusive magic all its own.
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