Cut From Strange Cloth

When I was growing up, I wanted to be my Grammy.

Actually, when I was first growing up, I wanted to be my Nana.  As far as my preteen eyes could tell, Nana was rich with money and royal blood.  She was fashionable and commanding.  She knew things that no one else in the whole world knew, like how to prepare and serve and dress for a ten course meal.  She lived by the motto, “it only costs a penny more to go first class”, and I dreamed of the days when I would grow up and have pennies of my own.

My Nana was a first rate snob, and I desperately wanted to be one too.

And then I had kids, got married, and settled into life in Parkersburg, Iowa.

And I wanted nothing more in the world than to be my Grammy.

Grammy is my father’s mother and I have, on more than one occasion, likened her to a saint.  She attends Mass every day and is one of those women that every church has keeping things running in the background.  She is, without a doubt, the matriarch of my father’s family.  She hosts Easter and Christmas and Thanksgiving.  She makes sure everyone gets birthday cards and proper invitations to holiday dinners.

She told me she loved me when I came to her pregnant and unmarried at 19 years old.

Grammy is quiet strength.  She is the woman we read about and tell stories about long after she’s gone.  The one who kept things running without asking for anything in return.  The one who carries the burden with silence and a smile.  She is dignity and grace and family and faith.

And one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life is admit that I’m never going to be her.

Or my mother-in-law.  Or my sister-in-law.  Or my best friend,  Erin.

Big.  Heavy.  Sigh.

I’m not them.

I can bake cookies and prepare elaborate Sunday dinners.  But I hate it.  I’d rather sit and argue over the latest political controversies or walk along the beach after serving sandwiches and water bottles from a cooler.

I can stay home and vacuum and do craft projects with the kids and drive them from soccer practice to baseball games.  But I hate it.  I’d rather haul my children off to a Gay Rights Rally and show them pictures of my trip to New York City, making lists with them of the things they want to see when they get to go.

Those women?  My Grammy and my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law and my best friend?  They are amazing.  They are devoted to their families and their communities and their homes.  They are the quiet strength that keeps everything running, and they do it with a smile.

And I am not them.

The only time I’m quiet is when I’ve just walked into a party and I’m still trying to get my bearings.  And I love a good party. I laugh loudly and talk loudly and think loudly.  I hug and I kiss and I sit on strange men’s laps.  I dance when the mood strikes me, whether there’s a dance floor present or not.  I speak without thinking and swear without realizing it.  I write about the most personal details of my life on the Internet.

I love the shit out of my kids.  I get up every day thinking about what kind of people they’ll be when they grow up.  I worry about their self esteem and their independence and their faith in humanity – and I forget to make sure they have clean socks on Monday morning.

I haven’t been to Church in almost a year, but I’ve spent almost $300 on a therapist to help me hear my own voice more clearly.

I have spent years of my life trying to be less like me and more like them.

I have apologized for being loud.  I have struggled to be less in charge.  I have pleaded with God to give me the grace to be more like what I’m supposed to be.  I have told myself that who they were was wrong in a desperate attempt to make who I was right.

I have wallowed in guilt and shame and frustration, biting my tongue and cramming down secret desires.

And still, I am not them.

I am not you.

I am not any one of the dozens of women that I know of and admire.

I am, at the end of the day, still me.  I’m loud and I’m crass; I’m inquisitive and I’m searching.  I’m pushy and controlling and abrasive.

Big.  Heavy.  Sigh.

And that’s OK.

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