“Did you know that Grandma Jean died?” my nearly four-year-old niece asked my dad and Thanksgiving dinner this year. Grandma Jean was my mom, my dad’s wife and the love of his life who had passed away five years earlier.
“Yes, I did know that,” he replied, and our meal carried on as though she had simply asked if someone could fill her water cup or if we knew that cranberries were red. Later that evening, my mother’s passing came up again.
“Momma, if Grandma Jean died, that means you don’t have a momma,” my niece said to my sister at bedtime. “That’s right, sweet girl,” my sister replied, tears welling in her eyes.
“But that’s not fair. Everybody needs a momma,” that little girl replied quietly.
Yes, my darling niece. Everybody needs a momma.
My family is generations deep with strong female ties. My mother was one of five daughters and two sons in her family. I have (or had) more great aunts on my mother’s side than I can count. And the girl cousins? We run thick in numbers as well.
Our only brother has three sisters. My sister has two daughters, I’m pregnant with my second girl. To say that our family knows a thing or two about raising women would be an understatement. But we aren’t just raising women as individuals.
The women in our family, we’re more than just related by blood. We’re a tribe.
Years before mom died she instituted an annual Girls’ Weekend. Mom and her sisters, their stepmother (who was adopted by our family as one of our own) and all of the female children on that side get together once a year for a long weekend in one of our hometowns. We don’t do much, really. We just…descend.
We arrive to the host making food for everyone and we promptly plop ourselves on sofas and kitchen chairs, conversing around meals as women in our family have done for centuries. It is in these very kitchens that we have passed down family recipes, shared dreams and goals, and had dance parties we didn’t know to be possible. It is when we are with each other that we can truly be ourselves.
Each day we find ourselves mixed into life in a new way. Our host gets to play tour guide. The elder women get to be child-like again while the younger women stretch themselves and try on the role of caregiver or planner or quiet observer.
These weekends are magical in their own quiet way. Over glasses of wine at night and pancakes in the morning, we discover each other as we discover ourselves. Mothers and aunts become friends and confidants. Cousins become sisters. Sisters become lifelines. In our own way, we break down the barriers of what it means to be a “mom”, a “sister”, a “cousin”. When we are together we are mighty – we turn toward each other and hold down the parts that need holding while lifting up the parts that need new life. At Girls’ Weekend, we each play a part in every role, redefining ourselves along the way.
Because, yes, everyone needs a momma. They just might not know who that momma is in every moment.
As the weekends too quickly come to a close and we part ways once more, there are often mutterings of “I wish every family could have this” and “why don’t we do this more often?”. We return home to our families, our jobs, our daily responsibilities. We look at our small daughters and think, “You are a smart woman to have chosen this family. There’s so much to learn here.”
Generations of women in our family come together to just be, and that simple act shapes the very future of the women yet to come.
As I tuck my eldest into bed while the baby girl inside me kicks and punches away, I find myself grateful to be raising two women in this world. While my father will just have to wait a while longer for that grandson he dreams of, I am proud to raise the next generation of thoughtful, strong, resilient, caring, powerful, funny, honest, and wise women right alongside my sisters and my cousins.
It takes generations of women to get to where we’re going. And I’m beyond grateful for the generations of women I get to call “mine”.
Val Geisler is a writer who stands up for the overwhelmed, tired, and lost who feel like there has to be a better way… and there is. She is committed to diving deep into how to do less better and releasing of the “shoulds” of the world so you can let go and focus on what matters most to you and let the rest go. You can find her at www.valgeisler.com.