A few years ago, a former colleague commented on a photo of my daughter. “She is so pretty and talented, she won’t have any problem finding a husband.”
That was literally my reaction: “Huh?”
The comment about my daughter wasn’t made in the 1950’s. It was made in the 2020’s. Who the heck cares if my daughter ever gets married, or if she does, if she marries a man?
I knew responding to this person with a “huh?” wouldn’t have mattered. This same person’s whole identity seemed to be wrapped up in her husband to the extent that she rarely went anywhere but work without him. In fact, even when she went to work, she often dragged him with her as a volunteer.
My internal reaction to her prattling on about her husband was usually “huh?” To clarify, this wasn’t because she was talking about her husband. I mean, I talk about my husband all the time. That’s what you do when you are in a relationship. What bothered me was the way she talked about her husband. She obviously didn’t think she was a complete person without him and that her marriage to him was what defined her.
Even though I internally rolled my eyes at her backwards beliefs, there was a part of me that felt sorry for her. She had never outgrown that myth that many of us were fed as young girls: some day your prince will come and you will live happily ever after.
Thank goodness my mom told me early on that was a load of crap, and thank goodness my dad encouraged me to always be able to take care of myself. That was how I was raised: get an education and never expect that you can rely on anyone but yourself. I thought that was normal until I discovered how many of my peers were raised differently. There were numerous times that I was shocked when a smart, talented young woman put a relationship before education and career.
Of course, these women usually didn’t have a mom who told them that needing a man to be complete was a load of crap or a dad who championed his daughter’s independence. Their parents had actually told them they didn’t need to worry about getting a good education if they found a good man or that going to college was a great place to find someone to marry.
In hindsight, I was extremely fortunate to have parents who had the same expectations of me that they had for my brother. Even though I am very strong willed and I can’t imagine thinking I needed someone else to define me, but who really knows. Maybe I would be a completely different person if my parents had encouraged me to wear makeup instead of encouraging me to be my own person.
I know I shouldn’t judge women like my former colleague who see marriage (and then children) as what makes them successful. If they are truly happy, then good for them. What bothers me is putting that old-fashioned ideal on the next generation, which is what actually prompted me to write this.
Recently, I saw a Facebook post from someone who is the same age as me. Her daughter, who is is in her very early twenties, was getting married, and the post was “I always prayed that “Mary” would meet a wonderful man one day. God is working in her life.”
Should she be happy and joyful and celebrating? Absolutely. But praying that your daughter would marry a good man? Really?
How about praying that your daughter will give back to the world more than she takes? How about praying your daughter will learn to navigate the tough world with the knowledge that she is strong enough to handle difficult times. How about praying that everyone will treat your daughter with the same respect and expectations that they treat your son? How about praying that your daughter has a such a sense of self that she will never consider getting married as something she needs to do to be a complete person.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against marriage, or relationships or motherhood. I think they are all great. I just don’t understand how some people still hold on to the belief that women have to have these to be complete or fulfilled or happy.
In other words…
365 Reasons to Smile – Day 142
I was on the phone with my children’s piano teacher, Kinsey, the other day, and she said my daughter no longer thinks that she’s cool. (When Kendall started piano lessons, Kinsey was engaged, now she is married with a nearly four year-old daughter.)
“That’s o.k.,” said Kinsey. “I understand. It’s her turn to be cool. My daughter wants to be just like her. She wants to wear her hair like Kendall and buy boots like Kendall’s.”
Kendall enjoys watching over and caring for younger girls, but until recently, I never realized that they might think that she is “cool.” Then yesterday in church, I watched her interact with a 6 year-old girl, and I realized how the little girl was looking up to my daughter.
The fact that my daughter can be a role model for others will always make me smile.
Day 142: When Our Children Become Role Models Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness
Day 140; People Watching Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage Day 136: Postcards from Heaven Day 135: Mickey Mouse Day 134: Generous Souls Day 133: I’m Moving On Day 132: A Family That is Really Family Day 131: A Personal Motto Day 130: Mork and Mindy Day 129: The Bears’ House Day 128: Veterans Day 127: Doppelgangers Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky Day 124: When History Repeats Itself Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122: Helen Keller Day 121: The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song Day 120: Sheldon Cooper Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends Day 117: Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season Day 115; Life Experience Day 114: Changes Day 113: The Wooly Bear Caterpillar Day 112: The National Anthem Day 111: Parents Who Care Day 110: Good Friends Day 109: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss Day 108: A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades Day 105: The Peanuts Gang Dancing Day 104: Sharing a Secret Language Day 103: The Electric Company Day 102: Doing the Right Thing Day 101: When Siblings Agree Day 100: Being Optimistic Day 99: Trying Something New Day 98: The Sound of Children on a Playground Day97: Good Advice Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy Day 95: The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94: Accepting Change Day 93: True Love Day 92: Camera Phones Day 91: Bicycle Brakes Day 90: HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square Day 88: The Grand Canyon Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human Day 84: Captain Underpants Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green LightsDay 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of HayDay 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
60 Years, 3 Couples, 1 Anniversary and Immeasurable Memories
From the diary of Letha Bates Smith: “Nov. 29, 1933 Wed. Finished cleaning at the house this morning. Met Sylvia at 3:25. Morden, she & I met Martin in E. Lansing and had the knot tied at 8:30. Home then to Vilas and Evelyn’s for the nite.”
That’s how my grandmother described the day she married my grandfather, Morden, in the chapel at the People’s Church in East Lansing, Michigan with her sister Sylvia and her brothers Martin and Vilas in attendance.
Exactly 30 years later, my mother married my father in the same chapel. Unlike my grandmother, she didn’t keep a diary, but, just like my grandmother, she had a very practical wedding.
Exactly thirty years after that, at age 26, I was a completely different person than both these women. I was definitely less conservative and more reckless. Yet all three of us would be forever connected not just by blood but by our sensibilities and our belief that a strong marriage, just like a strong woman, is defined by substance not glamour.
And so, on November 29, 1993, my grandparents celebrated their 60th anniversary and my parents celebrated their 30th by attending my wedding.
My grandparents met on a blind date while they were both students at Michigan State College (later University) during the Great Depression. My grandmother was one of four children from a farming family in Quincy Michigan who were all determined to go to college. Despite the odds and through their own perseverance, all four obtained college degrees.
My grandfather, the youngest of seven children, grew up in a family that had an uneven financial history – sometimes they had a lot, sometimes they didn’t. My grandfather’s older brother, Carl, had died when he contracted smallpox working in a lab while in medical school. The money from his insurance policy allowed my grandfather to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
I know little about my grandparents’ college romance. My grandmother wasn’t a talkative or an emotional woman. But for decades, she documented her life in diaries. The one or two sentence entries she diligently recorded provide some insight into the often hidden thoughts of a woman who, on the surface, was practical to the bone. The grandmother I knew had one dress that she wore to every special occasion (including my wedding) for decades. But, that didn’t mean she never cared about a new dress.
“Oct. 30, 1932 Sunday. My sweetheart down today. And what did he bring me – Um does it sparkle? Simply gorgeous delightful! The dear boy.”
“Nov. 1, 1932 Tuesday Met Sylvia downtown this P.M. spent the nite with me. The ring fixed – lovely now – more thrilled than ever. A new dress.”
Even after my grandmother died, we never found picture of her wedding or her wedding dress. At the time of their marriage, my grandfather was a relatively new employee at Citizens Gas Fuel Company. My grandparents chose to get married the evening before Thanksgiving because my grandfather would have a four-day weekend.
My grandparents’ marriage ended when my grandfather died in 1998, just shy of their 65th wedding anniversary. My grandmother would live for another seven years.
The words in her diary will be passed on to future generations.
Evadna and Ken
Following in the footsteps of her parents and her older brother, my mother attended Michigan State University. After graduation, she moved to Manistee, Michigan, but neither her job nor her location were exotic or adventurous enough for her. She wanted to see the world and submitted an application to join the newly established Peace Corps.
After he graduated from Idaho State University, my dad, a Massachusetts native who had already seen a great deal of the world while in the Navy, also applied to join the Peace Corps.
They were among the first individuals ever selected and were in the third group deployed. Before they left for Chile, my parents attended training at Notre Dame University, where they spent days in Spanish class. My father excelled with his ability to speak the words perfectly in his loud, booming voice while my mother shot him dirty looks while she struggled.
Her irritation didn’t last long. Before they returned to the United States, my parents were engaged. Instead of a diamond, my mother wore a simple gold band on her right hand that she would transfer to her left hand when she was married. The only diamond I’ve ever seen my mother wear is her mother’s engagement ring, the one that sparkled so brilliantly in 1932.
After returning to the United States, my father, a forester, got a job in Montana. He hadn’t accumulated any leave, but he was allowed to take a few days for Thanksgiving. And so, a wedding the day after Thanksgiving made sense, and my parents spent their honeymoon driving west to their new home.
They’ve spent the rest of their lives sharing stories of their adventures with their children and grandchildren.
Ironically, I met my husband on a November night.
On November 8, 1988, I was a college intern helping cover election results in the newsroom at West Virginia Public Radio. Giles was reporting for his first night of work. He thought I had an attitude, and I thought I had work to do. No sparks flew, and I didn’t give him a second thought.
But after I graduated from Ohio University, our paths continued to cross and our circle of friends became one in the same. Over time and shots of Jagermeister, we eventually ended up together.
Our relationship was nothing like I imagined everlasting love was supposed to be and everything my mother had told me it would be. (She’d told me on multiple occasions that common values and compromise, not romance, were the key to a successful relationship.)
In the beginning, our schedules were very different, and we accommodated. Our schedules are still very different, and we still accommodate. In the beginning, we watched a lot of Star Trek. Giles still watches a lot of Star Trek, and sometimes our kids even watch with him. And in the beginning, we laughed at my intensity and his lack of it. Now, we work around our differences… and we still laugh a lot.
Giles and I didn’t get engaged out of some romantic notion of marriage. We got engaged because his roommate bought a house, and logistically, our moving in together just made sense. And when we realized the significance of the year, we picked a very significant wedding date.
Unlike the two couples before us, we didn’t marry over Thanksgiving weekend nor did we get married in Michigan, Instead, our ceremony took place the Monday after Thanksgiving in Charleston, WV. And yes, our wedding was also simple and practical (my mother made my dress), but it was also a bit quirky. We received gifts of Star Trek dinnerware and had Star Trek action figures on top of our cake.
Our children look at the photographs and simply roll their eyes.
This Thursday marks my 19th wedding anniversary and my parent’s 49th. If they were still alive, my grandparents would be celebrating their 79th.
Those aren’t generally noteworthy numbers, but they are to me. Life and marriage are both fragile, and every day, month and year of marriage should be treasured.
I am under no illusions that future generations will marry on November 29. But I do hope that the stories from all three couples will serve as a reminder that weddings are not about a fancy show or an exotic honeymoon. They are about two people deciding to move forward together and create memories that can bond families together for generations.