Are there strong women in your family? Carolyn Vick wrote this short, reflective story about her ancestresses and their Super Powers in response to an offer in my e-letter, Memoir Cafe, of a gift story and editing. She wrote a little gem about staying strong and how some of her family’s traits were passed down through the matriarchs. The only thing Carolyn needed in order to tell her story was a reason to write! This can be provided by a promise or contract with a third party or the accountability of a writing class.
Deborah’s questions and gentle nudges led me to finally put down on paper thoughts that I had had in my head for many years.
Truth be told, Carolyn needed very little editing, and I am happy to share her story here as a guest blog as a good example of why the “Best Book Ever” is a unique personal story!
(of Smart, Strong Women!)
by Carolyn Vick
My entire life I have often taken the “road less travelled” – preferring the more challenging path. As I considered this at the time of my conversion to Judaism, it struck me that I am descended from a long line of amazingly smart, strong women, and I am following in their footsteps.
My paternal grandmother was raised in a very genteel, upper-class Southern family, even attending college in the 1920’s. Disowned from her family when she married a divorced man, she bore and raised 5 children – mostly on her own. My father was the second oldest, and at the age of 13 his father died. My grandmother took factory work; my father and his older brother worked after school to help support the family. Her family (you know, the genteel, Southern one?) offered to welcome her back into her former way of life, but only if she gave her 5 children up for adoption.
“No” was her answer, and for the rest of her life she worked and raised them as a single mother.
My maternal grandmother was smart enough to select the real garnet and gold ring from the 2 engagement rings offered to her by my grandfather (the other was a glass “diamond”) and as a type 1 diabetic bore 13 children, raising 10 of them to adulthood. Having only a janitor’s salary, my grandparents planted a vegetable garden; my grandfather hunted and fished; and my grandmother canned the vegetables, made venison mincemeat, cleaned the fish, canned huckleberries harvested at the end of summer, and darned socks in her rocking chair watching television in the evenings. And helped her 7 daughters raise more than 20 children.
Both of my grandmothers were skilled needlewomen, as well. My paternal grandmother was a tall, large-boned woman, who sewed all of her clothes, since she could not find ready-made clothing to fit her. At 16 she made me a quilt in which I could recognize the fabrics from many of the dresses she had worn. She mended and remade her children’s clothing and also crocheted – never needing a pattern; just looking at the photo of a crocheted item sufficed. My maternal grandmother also sewed, darned, embroidered and knitted to clothe her large brood. Each of them taught me the basic rudiments of their craft at a very young age, and I was hooked. I was using a treadle sewing machine by the time I was 9 years old!
My mother, the youngest of the 10 children, and her 6 sisters all taught me special skills they had learned out of necessity – embroidery, knitting, wallpaper hanging, painting (as in the walls), baking and crocheting. They also taught me to reuse and repurpose. With a large family extended family, clothes were always handed down and around the cousins, lamps were traded for a canister set, and furniture was shared even at later ages among us cousins.
I realized this strength of character – my super power – that was passed down to me came from: belief in one’s self (can-do attitude), love of family, and necessity. I cherish this, which has allowed me to follow the path I have believed was right for me, even when it may not have been the easiest one. So, despite the challenges of conversion to Judaism, I knew their spirit supported me on that path. I have tried to pass this superpower along to my own daughter, who has, indeed, followed her own path, albeit a challenging one at times.
In retirement I see it as my obligation to help others find their own super powers. We all have them; we just need to know where to look and how to find them. I work with adults, who are in the process of earning their High School Equivalency degree. So many of them have low self-esteem, which is their primary stumbling block to achieving their dreams. Part of my role is to support them, and give them back their self-belief, to help them find their inner strength and courage to move forward with their lives. And once they have achieved that goal, to then use it to find their own superpowers.
P.S. My maternal grandfather, father and uncles were no push-overs, either…
Carolyn may have retired from her financial career, but she is giving back in many ways as a volunteer and adult educator. Her website UnexpectedPassing.com offers advice about all the aspects of death planning. She is also an active needlewoman.
The Best Book Ever is the book you write about your life! I am Deborah Wilbrink, the ghostwriter, editor and personal historian who can help you get your life story told in a heritage book.