Thursday, November 3, 2016

Casting Today's NaBloPoMo for Hillary

During the second presidential debate, I watched Hillary Clinton's patient mode of interaction. Her direct and metered speech had me at the edge of my chair, I could feel how much she knew. But she was aware that she had to pace her information. I sat, transfixed, why did Hillary's face look so familiar?

I recognized the look from somewhere. The pulled back and reserved delivery. Slow and confident, there was no spitting out of bite-back barbs nor revved up reckless toss of empty phrases. Everything she said was worth gold per second. She never slunk down, and no matter what question came around the corner, she was at the ready.

There was no stopping her. I watched, I didn't wince at what she said, unlike my reaction to her candidate. Hillary came to slay, and there was a serenity, not a slinking away, to her presence.

And I had seen it before. I closed my eyes, concentrating only on why I knew this tilt upward of the chin, this direct gaze along with no presence of doubt.

What I was looking at, was my mother's face.

Hillary was my mother.

Hillary was all women who have had to fight against a lifetime of growing up where they were held back by those thinking they knew more, because they were male. My mother, in her lifespan, never censored or kowtowed to anyone. No one and nothing stood in my mother's way when she set her course. Most of that time, that meant her work, and her children. You could not describe either women, my mother or Hillary, without the word fearless. She was a force of nature, as Hillary has shown us she is.

I choose the word fearless, but I know the other words my mother heard when others spoke of her. She told me what they were, and they are much the same words we now hear about Hillary Clinton: annoying, frustrating, bull headed, stubborn. "She just doesn't know when to stop." This is what happens when you've been told your entire life how to be, who to be, because of your gender.
I often felt those same words about my mother. It's uncomfortable to confess, but especially as a young woman, there was no battle that I won when I went up against my mother. I didn’t love growing up under her rules, but I learned a lot from it. With every year that I live in the form of a woman, I have come to an appreciation for what my mother’s life was, as a female working in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and on through the 80s.

Like Hillary, my mother was a qualified woman. When you were on her radar, you felt the heat. My mother, too, like Hillary, did what she had to do, never saying no to work when she felt that she was needed. She struggled to provide as a widowed mother of six children. Of all the jobs that my mother worked, sometimes three at a time to support us, none was more important to her than that of mother. I saw that same thing in the way that I've seen Hillary raise her daughter, Chelsea.

My mother lived without apology. Whether you liked her or not, was secondary to her. Doing the right thing, was of first concern. She did what she had to do, without a worry about fitting in with the women of our 1960s neighborhood. She began working full time in the 1940s, a time and in a country when women didn’t and in the ‘60s, when in the city of Milwaukee women needed their husband’s signature to get a credit card. My mother talked the bank manager into allowing her a card, for the necessity of her children. Never take no for an answer, if my mother would have sat long enough, and cross stitched, that is what she'd have on her pillow.

There is an intuition that Hillary has, the same my mother often referenced, about themselves. A bravery about who they are, resilient when life did as life does — it was as if any adversity that came their way just made them that much more sure of themselves. They spoke first, and then took full responsibility for any fall out, not ever seeking out a scapegoat. Both women were serious in their work and lived by a work ethic that was there seven days a week. My mother was aware, too, that she had a brilliant sense of humor. I was aware of people laughing at the things my mother said, but it wasn't until we had made our peace as mother/daughter, that she astounded me with her comebacks and the way she would press her lips together right before she was about to deliver a sharp-tongued gem... as if to say I can’t stop myself, I have to.

To my mother, there was no such thing as a man’s world, even while she was plunked right in the middle of it. It was just the world, and she didn't give in to it or accept it. She fought for her place because she knew no one else would for her.

Of women like this, we hear "ahead of her time," but what does that say about us? That we merely need to wait and equal opportunity and treatment for women will arrive on our doorstep? My mother  didn't wait for chance to come her way, she showed us to say yes first, and then make damn sure you delivered. She would watch the news during the ‘70s with the rise of ERA, chewing on her thumbnail, she would tell me, “These women, it's good they're saying something, but if they don't do something, nothing will happen."
I grew to love and admire my mother for the same reason that I do Hillary Clinton. And I know I can say the same for the way Chelsea Clinton evolved to see her mother through the softening heart of maturity; as strong, beautiful women, and needing no one’s approval. Though there were plenty of times that I cringed from my mother’s brazenness and intentional lack of restraint, underneath everything I couldn’t help but admire her courage and her belief in women's worth.
My mother has been gone three years now. She is the brilliant stars I see in the night sky when I look up. When I remember her perfect moments, when she would unleash and let go when sexism would butt its way into her life at work with a boss who would take Friday afternoons off for pleasure but make my mother work through lunch to make up hours when she had to take one of her children to the doctor, to dealing with a plumber who quoted an outrageous amount to repair our bathroom because she was a woman, I felt proud to be a woman, not burdened.
I lost my mother three years ago, and I miss seeing a powerful, unstoppable woman in action. 
My mother was what Hillary is now being called, "such a nasty woman." A nasty woman is a woman who is a pain in your ass, because she knows things by living through what she has. A nasty woman is a capable woman, someone not scared to call you on your lack of knowledge and your delinquency in learning what you should have come prepared to know.
Nasty women can't be brought down, they know only one plane of existence: that of the work to elevate. My mother is gone, but during this election decision, she will have cast her vote for the first woman president.

I know because I brought a picture of my mother along with me, the one of her working her first job when she was 14 years old.
I set it down on the ballot, and together, we both voted for Hillary.
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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Rita. I know she was there with me. And I know what this moment would have meant to her.



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