Last week I celebrated my 53rd birthday. When a nice, well-intentioned man wished me, “Happy 29-again!” I both thanked him and declined. I get the sentiment, but when your mother dies at 56, you are happy, ecstatic even, about getting to 53. You celebrate.
I come from a long line of strong women, women who made good even as they spent their lives tied to men who cheated, bullied and demeaned them.
I say the women were strong because I bore witness. No matter the turmoil with our men—fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles, sons—the women taught me about tenacity and stability. They paid the bills on time; they made sure the clothes were washed, ironed, and neatly tucked away; they got a dozen kids fed and bathed and off to school; they banded together to tend to sick and elderly neighbors. Then they fixed their hair and drove off to work shifts on loud, dirty factory lines.
Women, I learned from my seat at grandma’s kitchen table, were the ones who got things done.
No surprise, I was looking forward to electing the first woman president, someone who was strong enough to ignore the noise and chaos around her and focus on women’s and children’s rights, make healthcare more accessible and affordable, value teachers, cut taxes for the middle class, and be a skilled negotiator on the world stage.
But then the unthinkable happened. We rolled out the White House carpet for a vulgar, unqualified bully who seemingly wastes his days obsessing over cable news coverage about himself, rage-tweeting, and playing golf at one of his country clubs. Or, as my grandmother would put it, “getting a whole lotta nothin’ done.”
The day after the 2016 election, I felt overwhelmed. Where to start? “No matter if it’s family, friends or neighbors,” I wrote, “we have lost the art of vigorous debate. There are so many topics to avoid: politics, abortion, guns, sexual assault, religious faith or lack thereof. There are so many things we were taught to never discuss in polite company.”
Yet, how can we solve anything without open dialogue and the willingness to work?
Which is why, with the midterm elections coming up in November, I was excited to hear about the Democratic Woman’s Club starting up again here in Anderson County. We held our first meeting on July 30, and I admit I was nervous. Would anyone come? Was I, as I have so often felt, all alone out here in Trump country?
Here’s to the 23 women who showed up to prove me wrong. And here’s to the two dozen more who could simply not make it the first night on such short notice. I am not alone. You are not alone. None of us are. And it just so happens that a great candidate—who happens to be a strong woman—is running for Congress in our district. It is time to get to work.
The next meeting of the Anderson County Democratic Woman’s Club will be held Monday, August 27, at 6:00 pm at the Senior Citizens Center in downtown Lawrenceburg. I invite you to come and take your seat at the table. Join the conversation. We need all the strong women we can get.
Last week I celebrated my 53rd birthday. Every day, I checked my mailbox, hopeful. But there were no colorful envelopes, no cards from anyone in my family. The women are all dead and gone. And it was then that I remembered: It is the women who remember all of the birthdays, isn’t it?