In Gratitude: A Valentine’s Day Ode to the Women I Have Known

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Valentine's DayMy grandmother was a songbird of a woman. She was always full of laughter and stories. This explains why the front door to her home, opening into the wide, dark entry way was never used. Instead, every one would come in and out of the side door, which opened into a softly lit kitchen made even warmer by a large black stove tucked into a corner. She’d sit at the end of the table, which was centered in the kitchen, putting it between herself and the door. And from here she’d watch her kingdom, getting up only to make another pot of coffee or pull a tray, loaded with warm, homemade sticky buns, from the oven.

All day long, every season, the door would open and shut, open and shut. In would walk her friends from when she “worked at the factory.” Then the women that she’d chat up every Friday afternoon when she’d go the neighbor’s in-home salon to get her hair set would be welcomed in, and then there was the extensive network of her family that would appear for a conversation and a piece of the hard candy she had in crystal bowls scattered around her table.

Women she knew from tailgating at football games were there. There were women there from her high schools days, and women that I never had any idea how they became a part of her world were there. Women who brought their children with them, women who had no children, women whose children were grown and living too far away to visit.

Finally, as I grew older and entered my teens, I became one of those women at my grandmother’s table. And then my friends began to join me. At least two or three nights a week, we’d show up and play cards, devour the richest of foods, and listen to stories, eventually telling our own as well. It was like being part of a secret society. It was safe and it was heart-swelling.

My grandmother taught me one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned: to make friends with women. All women. All ages. All backgrounds. It was to these women that she owed much of her happiness, having lost her husband early in her married life. She was tough and she was soft. And she is one woman to whom I owe the deepest of gratitude. 

And there are others.

There are the women today, who understand my life in all of its minuscule moments: the small ups and downs of day to day. The moments that seem to feel so big and powerful, but will fade and I will forget because in this life, this morning’s fight with a toddler will not seem so weighty. These women I owe gratitude. They have brought balance to a world that oft-times spins with reckless control. It is these women who remind me that these tough times of motherhood are just a time. They tell me it’s ok that my little people are wearing their clothes backwards, waffles are an acceptable dinner, and I’m not a bad person or mother for feeling like I’ve hit the edge some days.

I am grateful to the women in my life today for seeing me through this new, ever-changing journey of motherhood. I am grateful to them for reminding me not to lose myself, and for understanding how hard it can be not to because they have done it and come out on the other side. Thank you women of now for always showing up with a pizza and a bottle of wine on a snow day. Thank you for having a play date so I could have a moment to think. Thank you for treating my children as your own. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you.

There are those women who have been in my life for set moments, having appeared when we both needed someone, and having quietly disappeared when time, distance, or circumstance slid between us. These women I owe gratitude. Those days at work would have been endlessly long if I hadn’t had them to raise my eyebrows at when we were asked to stay late. My broken heart would’ve been slow to bounce back if it weren’t for the cards they’d leave outside my door to remind me I wasn’t really alone. And if they hadn’t shown me how to make a dream catcher, I’d have never known I could do it on my own.

I am grateful for the women of my moments for teaching me how valuable it is to have conversations without being closed because there’s no time to pretend. I am grateful to them for mentoring me, helping me figure out little pieces of who I am becoming. Thank you women of my moments for telling me that I need to do more research on a topic before I can call it finished. Thank you for withholding your judgments as I fumbled my way through college or my teens or my first real job. Thank you for still sending me holiday cards and wishing me Happy Birthday. Thank you for not forgetting because I haven’t forgotten you. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you.

And finally, there are those women who have been in my entire life and know me in a way that goes beyond words: they know my soul. These are the women who sat at my grandmother’s table with me. These women I owe gratitude. Driving around old dirt roads, looking for something, anything, in a small town would’ve been crushing if they weren’t in the car with me. Those nights when the house is asleep and I still have more to say would feel cold if I didn’t know I could talk to them even in the middle of the night just to hear a voice. And when I don’t feel like speaking, but want someone to understand, I’d feel like an island if I didn’t know they were out there, capable of doing just that.

I am grateful for the women of my soul for accepting me in whichever form I show up in. I am not who I was and I am bound to change again, but that is what they accept most about me. They even know who I will become before I figure it out and they just watch, cheering me on. I am grateful to them for reminding me that when it seems everything can change, some things never will. Thank you women of my soul for reminding me I’ve always been late and I’ve never been a morning person. Thank you for still making plans for us in case we’re alone when we’re old and grey and can’t see anymore, including lining our shared old lady apartment with chair rails so we can get from point A to point B safely. Thank you for making me laugh deeper and longer than the distance between us. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you.

My grandmother loved to sing, and everyone seemed to love to listen. Her voice wasn’t particularly memorable, but her love of making music was, which is how I like to remember her. She wasn’t one to offer forthright advice if it wasn’t directly solicited. But she offered me and the women surrounding her a living example of how to take care of each other, how to love each other. And for Valentine’s Day this year, this day of love, I want the women of my life to know how grateful I am for their friendships. All of them. 

What women in your life are you grateful for. Pass it along!

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Jen is three-year resident of Westchester County and a five-year resident of Mommyhood. She enjoys writing, reading, coffee, wine, Disney World, and traveling with her husband, five year old daughter, two year old son, and 13 month old tiny son. She used to teach high school English in the city, but she decided to give up that stress for the stress of being a SAHM. Her least favorite things to do are laundry and dishes, but those seem to be the two things she puts the most energy into, hoping that one day, someone will create a Roomba-like device that will gather, sort, pretreat, wash, dry, fold, and put away the now clean clothes that her children shed like snakeskin around the house. Aside from dishes and laundry, Jen also occupies her free moments traveling and writing for her blog Three Kids and A Car where she provides travel tips and stories she’s collected since she first started bringing her daughter with her while she traveled the world.