On Women's HERstory Month
Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 05:13PM

March is Women's History (HER story) Month and it's time to celebrate the amazing mothers who work tirelessly to raise healthy, happy children. It's time to celebrate the mothers--the Katies, the Nancys/Tricias/ Gayles, the Anitas/ Gabriellas/ Emilys/Christines/ Jaimes and Beths, the Libbys/ Julies/Giulias, the Barbaras, the Gayles/ Melissas/ Valeries and Erins...the moms who aren't (as far as I know) famous, but who fastidiously love their children and do anything needed to care for them, despite overwhelming obstacles.

But I want more. 

Each year, for Women's HERstory month, a former and beloved history teacher, now retired, returns to my classroom to share his story of an ancestor who was an abolitionist. Each year, for many years now, I have asked my students to write a story of a female ancestor of their own--someone for whom books were not written, someone who was most likely a mother, someone whose story might eventually evaporate but for the telling.

My students need to interview living family members in order to find these stories, and in doing so, they learn not only about great grandmothers or great aunts but history. They learn about Irish ancestors escaping potato famines, about Holocaust survivors, about first generations that were born out of slavery. They learn about women who went to college when few others did, about women who raised seven children single-handedly, about poverty, prejudice, survival. They learn about the character traits that are still remembered--kindness, perseverance, stubbornness, industriousness--character traits that might be passed down to future generations, whether those generations be born to them or adopted. 

I want to be remembered, and not just for being a mom. Or a mom who fought for kids' medical health. Or a mom who fought for Lyme treatments while lying in bed, fatigued from Lyme. Not that that isn't enough, but I want more. At one time, I would have been happy to be remembered for singing. But I had aimed for a different path. I would love to be remembered for my writing. Most importantly, I would like to be remembered for bringing positive change to our world. 

But today, I am tired. I'm physically fatigued. I'm worn down. I joked with a colleague a few weeks ago that if I did not return from February break, I could be found somewhere in Italy.... maybe studying music. I know I'm fighting a cold. And the cold has caused some brain fog. All setbacks perturb me. I have so many goals I want need to accomplish.

Why is it so important for me to accomplish more than parenthood? Why is it integral that I am remembered? What is our purpose here in life? Is it to achieve happiness? To learn to accept all that we cannot change or to fight for the changes that must be made? Is it to plant a tree, have a child, write a book? Is it to make the place better for others?

Where do we current mothers fit into all of this? Will my children have children or will my great grandchildren someday be researching me? And if so, what could they learn? That I dabbled in musical theater, kept returning to college and racking up degrees, (yet still suffered financially)? That I fought for PANS legislation and Lyme treatments? Will they read that I published a book sometime in the 21st century (date unknown)? Will they read that I made great changes? Will my name persist past my life? Will my children grow old and carry with them good memories of me?

Or will I slowly disappear, much as my own great, great grandmothers have done? My great grandmother Nadia (renamed Nettie) came over from Russia, lost her thumbnail in a NYC sewing factory, lost her firstborn to a hole in her heart and nearly lost her son to polio despite the fact that my great grandfather was a doctor. My great grandmother was also mother to my grandmother, whom I loved but who will not be remembered for many generations. I know nothing about Nadia's mother or Louis's mother or my Great Grandmother Rose's mother, despite their accomplishments, despite the obstacles and suffering they had to surmount. Their names and their stories are now lost to history. 

Throughout my teens and twenties, I felt desperate to know why I was alive, why I was here. I knew I had a meaning in life but it was just a whisper of importance that evaded me. When I found the stage and could make people laugh and cry, I thought that part of my meaning was involved with musical theater. I believed that writing was linked to my meaning but had no direction yet. Ironically, I majored in finance. 

Once I had a family, that urge to find meaning calmed somewhat, until I was thrust into another world altogether. This new world would ultimately (hopefully) make me a more understanding and compassionate person, one that would lead to deeper connections with others. If I had not had setbacks that brought my world so much narrower, would it have grown wider? Would I know and care so very much for the same people? 

I want more.

I want more fun, more freedom, more finances. I want to make more changes, be able to volunteer at a conference two days in a row without growing fatigued. I want to be able to be two places at the same time! I want to spend quality time with my husband, my daughter, my son, my friends. I want to learn ukulele and play my guitar and write my novel and ride my bicycle and do yoga and save the world, but I have neither time enough nor sufficient energy. I feel fractured into many different directions, which is nothing new as I have always had many passions. I just cannot do it all.

And while I ponder my story, while I try to WRITE my story, I also try to shape that of my own daughter. She has strengths I never had at her age. She has personality and gifts that are blooming. She has the potential to make so many positive changes to our world. She is a gift to me and she is also one of my gifts to the world.

"Please Gd, please, don't let me be normal!" --Luisa from The Fantasticks

Article originally appeared on PANS life (http://www.panslife.com/).
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