I march for My Past:
My mother was a true badass.
- First American woman to play on the University of Edinburgh’s field hockey team; when there weren’t enough women’s cricket teams around to scrimmage with, they just played the men’s
- Earned her master’s degree in Education in 1962, when many women weren’t expected to attend college at all
- Gave up teaching to stay at home and raise her four kids on a 50-acre farm
- After divorcing my dad, returned to teaching so she could continue raising her four kids as a single mom
- At various points in her life, coached high school volleyball, wrote poetry, and sang tenor with the guys in the church choir
- Won teaching awards and created an outstanding environmental education program at the Boone County Conservation District
- After retirement, was teaching herself the Lakota language; she died in 1996, before she was fluent, but left for me and my sisters a Lakota song reminding us that we would never be alone, because she would always be with us
- Gave me a copy of Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.
I never read it. Like many children do, I rebelled against my parent’s teachings. In my case, that meant soundly rejecting my mother’s fire-breathing, chest-thumping, who-needs-a-man brand of feminism. I realize now how that must’ve felt like a rejection of her, of all she was, and all she’d hoped for me. I wish I’d read it then.
I march for My Present:
Though the divorce made the early part of my life tougher (needing donations from the food pantry to get by that week; going to work at age fourteen, cleaning my mom’s friends’ homes for extra money; wearing hand-me-down clothes that my mom’s kind teacher friends brought for us in black garbage bags; having to choose between clean laundry or a shower because they both drained directly into the ground beneath our house and would flood the basement if you did both; graduating from college thousands of dollars in debt from my student loans), compared to millions of other people in this country, I would say that, on the whole, since then, I’ve had, by many folks’ objective benchmarks, a pretty great fucking life.
- Graduated from college and found teaching jobs right away
- Got married and stayed married to a wonderful, hardworking, good man whom I love and who loves me right back
- Bought a house
- Got a dog
- Had kids, quit work (because childcare would’ve cost more than my salary could cover) to be a stay-at-home mom
- Moved a few times, bought bigger houses, got another dog, bought an even bigger house
- Went back to school to earn my master’s degree in writing
It wasn’t always easy, but after that initial rough start, my family and I have been blessed for decades with steady employment; nice, roomy houses in safe communities with good schools; outstanding corporate health benefits; and enough financial security to be able to absorb emergencies, save for our children’s college educations, and prepare ourselves for a comfortable retirement. We are, in fact, living the American dream.
If you didn’t know me and know what my childhood was like, you’d think I’d always lived this life overflowing with a disgusting amount of privilege. You’d think it’d be easy for me, then, to sit back and say, “Hey, our family’s good to go. Now we can relax. To hell with everybody else.”
But it’s not easy. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t look around me and remember where my life started, how hard my husband and I had to work to get to where we are today, not to mention how much support and downright luck we’ve enjoyed along the way. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel an obligation to pay that forward, in any way I can, to people who have never, in their wildest dreams, had a single day as easy as one of my hardest ones.
Yes, I’ve had a great fucking life. But for all those out there who life is just fucking—the jobless; the homeless; those lacking a decent education to prepare them for changing workforce needs, safe neighborhoods in which to live, or affordable access to quality medical care; those suffering discrimination, denial of civil rights, or outright persecution because of their race, religion, gender, country of origin, or sexual orientation—
I see you.
I hear you.
I want to help you.
I march for Her Future:
My badass mother did not live to see me become a mother myself; she died before my daughter was born. But where I may not have been my mother’s idea of a woman who runs with the wolves, my daughter, however, was born howling.
From her earliest days, when her first word was “no” and she refused to wear pink or sing the alphabet song on command or stop biting her little brother on the ass, she showed herself to be a proper little savage, full of spirit and fire and fight, a spirit we never, ever tried to squelch.
She has, in fact, been raised as a child of great privilege, but she has not been raised to be blind to injustice and suffering. On the contrary: as she has grown and matured and learned about the world around her, she has begun bringing her spirit of fire and fight to bear on those injustices she sees around her, the large and the small, learning to stand up and speak her mind, to channel her passions and energies into pushing back, hard, at bullies and bigots.
But speaking up alone isn’t enough, clearly. I have occasionally sensed in her, over the last couple of years, a hint of frustration with her too-submissive, too-conventional mother, a hint of sadness, even, that I seemed (at least in her mind) content to just keep baking cookies and writing my books and cleaning the bathrooms and doing the grocery shopping. Didn’t I want to do something more?
My girl—she wants to run with the wolves, and I know that she wants me to run with them, too. Her grandmother would’ve loved that.
So we will march this weekend, howling together at the top of our lungs.
We will march for our past—for her grandmother, my mother, who was a total badass right to her last breath.
We will march for our present—for the life of privilege and access that is in such stark contrast to the lives so many of our fellow citizens are living today, the life that COMPELS us, that REQUIRES us, to find ways to help and protect others.
And, because I know I will not live forever, we will march together for the future I want to see for her: a future where she, personally, not only has the freedom to do anything with her life that she wants to, but also a future where she and all her fellow Americans can live together in peace, in freedom, with equal opportunities for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, no matter their race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or orientation.
We can do better for each other, and we must.
This is #why I march.