They’re loud. They thrive on wine and accusations. Their greatest fear, I assume, would be admitting defeat, or worse – being found in the wrong. They are elegant and in the same breaths harsh and tender with one another. They don’t see me.
I am terrified of them.
They are the women in my family.
Specifically on my mother’s side.
And sadly, I fear, will never be one of them.
Because I am my father’s daughter.
They are my grandmother, her three sisters (my great aunts), their daughters, my mother and my aunt. And they are all bonded, over things of the past that I only have legacy memory of from years of stories retold.
They grew up in a different time. They speak their own language – a loving one, but one I cannot speak.
And they were beautiful. Being with them during the holidays, was the first time I saw most fashions in person – shoulder pads, sequined dresses, stilettos, big hair, eyeshadow-but not just one color, maybe two or even three on the same woman!- little black dresses. How was I even their blood? They were so fabulous.
I’ve always been an outsider. As a child leaning toward tomboy, I assumed it was that I wasn’t feminine enough. At family gatherings, I looked at their clothes, their Californian hair styles, their casual laughing lipsticked mouths, and then looked down at my own body.
Sweatshirts and sports clothes poorly disguising a bespectacled skeleton’s body.
“Nope,” I thought. I’ll never be one of them.
I possessed nothing in the neighborhood of their realm of je ne sais quoi.
As a child, it bothered me. The women in my family, they were like a pack. Individually so different, but gathered together they became mirrors of each other.
No one mirrored me, even my own sister was a twin to my brother. Growing into an adult person, let alone woman, resembling something of elegance? Well, it seemed like something only possible in a movie, or a book.
So I watched, an outsider, at these family gatherings, once, maybe twice a year. Often I was chastised for not playing outside with the kids, but c’mon are you kidding me? What could be more entertaining than just hanging out where the women were? I got to hear family gossip, watch loving and heated dynamics play out, and wonder if this was what families were supposed to look like.
I hung back, and watched.
As I grew older, so did the women. I began to sense something, some odd barrier between them and the men.
In their fervor, the women could get carried away. To a point of lunacy. The game was usually arguing to a point that the other person gave up, even if you were clearly in the wrong. Sometimes the loudest voice won. Sometimes the eldest pulled rank. It was startling, but it was all in good fun.
But the men didn’t understand. Their bond was not the same.
The men sat, mostly quiet in other parts of the house, bonding over hours clocked watching sports, and eating different snacks you could put in dip. When the sounds of the women’s fervor crept in occasionally, the men responded with groans and rolled eyes.
“Those crazy women,” they would mutter, and agree but upon the next snap of the ball completely forget about the terrifying impact those words had on me.
Because I am my father’s daughter.
And, at an impressionable age, I perceived that being crazy was a negative thing so I went and sat silently with the men. Sometimes reading a book. Sometimes, I’d let my guard down and play video games with my brother and cousins.
I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew one thing for certain – I didn’t want to grow up to be crazy.
Still these women were impossible to resist. More often than not, I found myself drawn back to the kitchen, or dining room, or whatever room they occupied, with their loud arguments, heated Tripoli games, and always, always infectious laughter.
Now, as I go through the holidays in my adulthood, I think of them. The high-heeled, big-haired beauties of my youth, have been replaced by equally fabulous and fast-talking, though softer around the edges, older women.
Our gatherings are less frequent than I would like, and more often than not, I feel the absence of these great women in my life.
I look to my sister, my mother, my daughter – my only close female relations, and though I cherish our relationships, it doesn’t feel the same. I wonder, are we the new generation of these distinctive women? Will we multiply? Will I ever be a part of something in the neighborhood of je ne sais quoi?
I know the answer is both yes and no. Some amazing and beautiful things in life simply cannot be replaced or reproduced.
But I hope that at some point in my life, I get to be a part of the vivacity those women shared again. And if watching them and sharing those moments together was my only chance, then I am happy to have had the opportunity to know and love those crazy, amazing women.
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