I remember in college when I was taking an English course which doubled as a Women's Studies class and I had to write an essay on an influential woman. I had certainly read about lots and lots of high-powered, feisty feminists who were chiseling away at the glass ceiling in (fill-in any number of professions). I had enjoyed reading the poetry of Adrienne Rich, getting familiar with Janet Lewis and had slogged through enough Virginia Woolf. Amelia Earhart was spectacular, Cheryl Miller was a superstar. And I had already been exposed to a number of women in elected office in my home state of New Hampshire.
But when I thought about who had really influenced my life, it was definitely my mom. And that was the essay I wrote.
My mother was an only child who gained siblings when her parents divorced and her dad remarried. Her mom worked to support herself and my mom. Her dad, while brilliant, was an alcoholic. She would tell me and my brothers the stories of traveling by train from New York to Michigan for the summer to visit her father, and how she would make up scenarios, telling the porter that she was a runaway princess and such.
She and my dad married in 1954, and it didn't take long for them to start a family. My oldest brother was born on this date in 1955. I came along in 1968, eight years after my brother, Tom. During that time, my mom was a homemaker who would continue to volunteer to work on political campaigns. About the time that I was in elementary school, she decided to complete her college education. So she went back to school at the University of New Hampshire, designed her degree program and worked on developing a statewide group home system for juvenile delinquents, a means of diverting children from hard-core prison time to a way that would give them structure and discipline without cells and bars. Her determination and dedication to getting her degree was admirable, and made quite the impression on me.
Throughout my life, both my parents had a way of opening our home and our dinner table to many odd characters. I never understood why this young person, or this older gentleman, was spending so much time with us, but I also never questioned it and thought, "Well, it's a round table and we've got room." My mom and dad lived and practiced the Christian understanding of hospitality and looking out for those fellow human beings in need. Another indelible mark on me. And if my parents weren't opening the house to people, my mom and dad both had a soft spot for animals. No dog was ever a stranger in the Gage household!
And so I say again, "Thank you!" to the Anonymous Peggins, my most faithful blog follower and mom for the ways in which you have demonstrated love and been such a huge presence in my life.