I believe in tribes of women. Although that conjures up quite the image, it is the purest way I can find to describe the beacon of love and understanding that has guided my life.
I was raised mostly by my mother. I was born to her alone. But she was not alone in raising me. My grandmother, my aunt, and many adopted aunts over the years were with her every step of the way – through her marriage to my father, through the birth of my brother, through the pain of my dad’s death and through the joys and sorrows of raising children.
As a child, the harmonious chime of women’s chatter, often interrupted by the ring of laughter, was ever present. Many memorable days spent in kitchens, gardens, on porches, and at dining room tables – recounting tales, giggling over shared memories, crying through grief, and playing with babies. They were together sometimes, other times alone… but it was known (a fact) that an ear, a shoulder, or a hand was always within reach. That’s how it had been and how it would be.
And their strength, oh how it resonated! Their patience, how it endured. Their wisdom, how it surrounded them like a halo when they shared it – which was often, much, and without expectation or requirement of action. It was gift. A seed, planted with the unwavering faith that it would grow within me.
I found the first of the tribe that I would build for myself when I was very young. My mother’s college girlfriend had daughters my age. If it was our mother’s friendship that paved the way or a path all its own, who knows. But she became my Auntie, they became cousins, sisters, friends. And the cycle began again.
My tribe of women has grown over the years. A collection of friends and family. Some I see every day, some I don’t see for months, some years, and some have died. But time and miles never diminished their presence in my life. They have been my refuge, my touch of reality, and my reconnect to my dreams. They are my forward movement when I can’t face the day and my respite when I’ve run too far, too fast. My tribe has shown me how to unabashedly be myself. To be a woman. And that, as women, our likenesses greatly outweigh our differences.
Now with daughter of my own I watch silently smiling as her bonds develop and her friendships form with the same importance placed on trust, comfort, and reliability. Some will come and go, but a select few will stay forever in her heart. She will gather them through shared experiences, common times in life, and some for no reason other than because they are necessary to her being. And the cycle begins again.
I believe in the importance of a tribe of women. I believe in their strength, their beauty and the difference they make in the life a girl. That’s how it has been and – I believe – how it will be.
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