Monday, November 29, 2010

That Woman

[This post was written for the 100th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Jasia of Creative Gene]

With the theme "There's One In Every Family," I struggled.  Writing is usually not a struggle for me, not a war or a battle, but more a wrangling of words and thoughts. My dilemma was not which aspect of my family history to use as a subject, but more about finding the appropriate term. I was looking for a term for a type of person you find in most families.  And if you're really lucky there's more than one for each generation. I'm in search of a term for "That Woman."

Who is "That Woman?"
  • That Woman is identified more by her acts than her words, and the acts are often silent and unnoticed. A silence not due to societal norms as to what a woman could and couldn't do, but a silence of determination to see the task completed, to see success won.
  • For some of us That Woman was Mom, for others Grandma, for still others Aunt Mary. Sometimes That Woman wasn't even a blood relative. She was a godmother, a neighbor, a woman from church, a teacher at school. But That Woman was so integrated into our lives that she walked, talked, breathed and lived like family to us.
  • That Woman had no time for family history or for diaries. She was too busy helping to make memories for the family to keep in later years. That Woman's presence, acts and influence made family history possible.
  • In many families, That Woman was The Wise One, the sage, the seer, the All-Knowing, the one who could be relied upon for wisdom and advice. She doled it out freely but only when asked and only when she knew it would help.
  • Was there someone in your family who always had a shoulder to cry on, a bandage for a wounded heart or ego, an arm to cradle your head as you thought your world had ended? Likely it was That Woman. She had a knack for making disaster disappear into thin air, for making the breakup with a boyfriend seem silly and inconsequential when looking back in later years, if not at that very moment.
  • Children ran to her, a family's Pied Piper. Other women looked up to her. Men respected her and allowed her to do what she did best: keep the family together in good times and bad.
  • That Woman didn't want credit, didn't want notice, didn't want to be called out for what she did. Her motivations were not selfish but selfless. She knew the family would go on, and would go on better than previous generations. 
  • Her accomplishments were not measured in money, in the number of possessions or even the number of children she had. That Woman's life was measured in love, if love had a quantifiable measurement. It was a love of children, a love of neighbor, a love of being in the moment, a love of knowing that "this too shall pass" and that "it is what it is."
  • That Woman was deeply mourned upon her passing and rightly so. And often in the days, weeks and years after the true depth of her deeds and her works would come to light. She was the one who quietly helped you buy that prom dress your family couldn't afford or made it possible for you to buy your first car. She was the one who made sure you saw every opportunity possible, even the ones you never imagined. 
Can you see how there is no adequate word to describe her and her role in the family and society? Was there That Woman in your family? And perhaps you are fortunate that she's still working her magic among the folds of the fabric of your family?

As genealogists we will add her name in our research, note her vitals and make sure she is among the counted. But as family historians we document the journey traveled by That Woman and how the family would not have been the same had it not been for her quiet but determined presence.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee


Michelle Goodrum said...

Thomas, An excellent, thought provoking, and as always, heartfelt post. You truly are gifted when it comes to words!

Greta Koehl said...

I absolutely love your description of "That Woman"; it's a role that I had never defined before, but when I read it here I realized that I had a couple of aunts and also a teacher or two who filled this role. They deserve such a tribute, but they're never the ones to seek the attention.

Dorene from Ohio said...

Just beautiful, Thomas!

Cheryl Palmer said...

"That Woman" in my life was the woman I hoped to grow up being just like. So far I don't see that I have made it,she had much more energy at 80 than I do right now. Wonderful and thought provoking for sure Thomas!

Jasia said...

As always, Thomas, you touch us all with your writing. It's the personal connection you remind us of, that's what does it. Thanks so much for contributing to COG 100. You're a dear!

Judy Webster said...

What a beautiful article! Thanks.

footnoteMaven said...

Yes Thomas! That Woman. That Woman who is "loved."


Gini said...

Excellent Thomas, you said it perfectly...thank you!

J.M. said...

Yes, there was That Woman in my family. Even at 90, she was still the woman I ran to, and she's dearly missed.