The day after Myra died, as Jess and I moved through her apartment, trying to get our brains around a life with out our mama, we kept thinking we needed to call someone to ask questions. This happens if your mama dies and you’re not ready for it, and she’s the one who helped you all the time.
Her two older sisters had already died, and I suddenly realized I was not at all ready to be any sort of matriarch. It made me weak in the knees. Even at 41, I’m not an actual grown up. It proved the universe had made a mistake. Jess and I can’t be expected to fend for ourselves! This is unacceptable!
And yet, here we are. The universe made a sort of amends, providing us with my mom’s amazing friends and family. Her two younger sisters, Barbie and Linda, my dad’s sister Shirley, our friend Carla, and our honorary aunt, Bev K. all stepped in to help us right away. Since then, dozens (literally dozens!) of women have reached out to Jess and me, to offer love, condolences, happy memories…to let us know we are not fending for ourselves at all. (Men, too, have helped us, in so many ways, especially Uncle Rick, our cousin Jonathan, and our friend Darrell. But it’s M for Matriarch today, not for Men. Thank you just the same, fellas). I’ll always be grateful for this first year, as raw and awful as it’s been, because I still feel my mom’s presence everyday, through the love of the women whose lives she touched.
When I was in college, as part of Women’s History Month, the Women’s Center had butcher-paper posters rolled out where students were invited to write out their matriarchal lineage. I looked forward to it every year. Mine reads like this:
I am Jennifer
Daughter of Myra
Daughter of Beulah
Daughter of Myra
Daughter of Sophia
Daughter of a woman whose name we do not know.
But I’m also the daughter of my hometown, of women around the world who knew my mother, and of women who never met her but know me, and have helped me through these last ten months. I’m the daughter of Janice and Marlys and Vickie and Mavis and Carolyn and Sharon and Carol and Marcia and Beverly and Shirley and Lynnette and Kathy and Mary and Charity and Trudy and Nancy and Shari and Crystal and Jenn and Emily and Sara and Sarah and Rebecca and Tenessa and Carla and Shannon and Lauri and Rachel and Leah and Karen and Ann and Marlene and Margaret and Beth and Leah and Clare and Darcy and Susanne and Colleen and Karla and Diana and Nicole and Tami and Jeni and Megan and Meagan and Logan and Kristen and Chelsea and Chelsey and Dana and Christine and Jessy and Jennifer and Barb and Heidi and Charlotte and Vinny and Judy and Andrea and Bonnie and MaryEllen and Teresa and Claudia and Connie and Pam and Erin and Charlene and Dawn and Amy and and …well, you get the idea.
I’m still not ready to be a matriarch. With a posse like this, though, I suspect there’s not much we can’t handle together. And I am so thankful for that.