Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother’s Day, Money, and the Women Who Inspired Me

In my quest to become a successful freelance writer in my second (or third, to be more accurate) career, I am taking several writing workshops. A current effort is a memoir writing class sponsored by the local college.

Each session we write on a different theme. Topics covered so far include family, home, and education. The most recent theme was money. The topic prompted my thinking about the events and observations experienced as a child that influenced my ideas about money – and life in general - as an adult.

The individuals making a lasting impact on my life were relatives – aunts and uncles, grandparents, and parents. Another time I will discuss the men who influenced my life. Today is women’s day.

The women in my life were strong, independent souls. In honor of Mother’s Day I want to celebrate and commemorate the women who, growing up, shaped my views about money and life.

I was about ten years old when my Uncle Ed died. Aunt Jean was Grandma Rose’s sister, and they were very close. Aunt Jean was lost when her husband died. I remember my grandfather sitting at the dining room table, papers strewn all over. He was working on Aunt Jean’s stuff.

My aunt had never written a check. She had no idea how much – or how little – money she had. Uncle Ed had taken care of everything. My grandfather taught her how to write a check and keep track of her checking account. He helped budget her money and tried to teach her about her financial situation. The year was 1960.

My Dad’s father died when he was about four years old and my Aunt Harriet was six. Nana was left with two young children to support. She lied about her age, losing eight years, because in the 1920’s women in their thirties did not go to work after marriage. She worked most of her life, never remarried, and struggled for many years. Yet she always seemed glamorous to me. I remember a tall, regal, well-dressed woman, every hair in place, whom I wanted to emulate.

My uncle married my Aunt Nettie, about as independent a woman as there ever was. She was born in Montana and I think her independent and adventurous streak was imbedded in her DNA. As a young single woman she travelled cross-country with friends. She went to nursing school and eventually became an administrator at a large hospital in New York City. She returned to school in the 1940s for an additional degree in social work. She and my uncle travelled to Asia, Europe and South America. I got engaged while still in college; her advice was, “Whatever you do, finish college.”

My mother was an only child and went to college, not common for women born in the 1920s.  A generation later when I went to college most women still majored in education or nursing. My Mom was a math major. Years later, when my sister and I were in elementary school, she returned to school, earned her master’s in library science and worked for years as an elementary school librarian. During the late 1960s my Dad faced financial difficulties, and my Mom’s paycheck bridged the gap until Dad was again employed.

I did not realize the impact on my life of my Aunt Jean’s, Nana’s, Aunt Nettie’s and my mother’s experiences until years later. They created a mosaic of memories shaping the choices made throughout my life.

For the choices that may not have been the best, I only blame myself.

For the positive choices made because of the lessons learned from these women, 
thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day!