March is Women's History Month, and I've been thinking about influential women in my history. They deserve some credit. This post will be about women in my family. I have another one brewing about other women, too.
First, of course, I have to mention my very powerful matrilineal ancestors. When I follow the women straight back several generations, I find Sarah Crossley, a handcart pioneer. She was my Mormon fairytale when I was a little girl -- crossed the plains in the Martin Company and became the fourth wife of the missionary who converted her family and then rescued her from the snows of Wyoming.
Her daughter, Mary Elvira is the woman I can thank for great ideas like keeping a hand-crank freezer full of ice cream under the bed for those pesky hot flashes -- and sayings like "Better belly bust than good food go to waste!"
Mary Elvira's daughter Alice was my great-grandmother and has left a wonderful life history that has greatly influenced my testimony about answers to prayer and the healing power of priesthood blessings. A spunky tomboy who grew up on a farm in Bountiful, she was always getting hurt or in trouble and being rescued by her mother's prayers and her father's blessings. Our time on earth crossed very briefly. I remember her teaching me to roll my r's and making delicious mustard pickles in her kitchen in the basement of my grandma's house in Draper.
That grandma, Alice's daughter, is still living and has taught me more than I can say -- the beauty of a well kept home and garden, the value of good home cooking, unwavering dedication to Church service, and perhaps most of all, absolute fearlessness about death and assurance of the power of the Atonement and of God's plan for our eternal lives. Grandma was a working mom in the age of June Cleaver and an early advocate of ideas like equal pay for equal work. She also sacrificed her career when it became necessary in favor of serving the Lord. She is uncompromising about good manners, good language and good choices. What a wonderful legacy.
Next in line is my mother. I know most every woman has a lot to say about her mother, good or bad. I'm very lucky that it's really all good for me. This is the woman who taught me that I am beautiful, smart and good, and that every child of God deserves equal respect and love -- black and white and brown. Hatred and mockery were as unacceptable in our home as the coarsest curses. And if I ever heard her swear, I would still think the word was coming to an end. She has striven to obey and learned when to question. She has had her heart broken and mended again. She can do everything, from caring for a cranky, ailing loved one to whipping up a wedding dress or creating a beautiful painting. She has spent a very big part of her life and talents on the six of us, her children. The world has missed out, but we have benefited. Now the world gets her, too, as she works with at-risk children in the schools, helping them learn to read or visiting their homes and speaking to their parents -- often in Spanish -- about how to support their children's school efforts.
I cannot leave out my dad's mother, the energetic, enterprising, maybe slightly mischievous grandma who -- after a career as a school librarian while her kids were growing up -- decided she'd like to go into real estate. She was the first person I ever knew who had a cell phone. She opened her own brokerage in her 60s and has prospered well in that field. She's a sharpshooter -- literally -- with a penchant for pretty pocketknives, pearl-handled pistols, parties and practical jokes. (That alliteration worked out so well!) Like many mothers, I think, she has navigated the challenges of giving unconditional love versus tough love as her children have gone through hard times. More often, she has chosen the unconditional side, and I think she has been right. Her grandchildren have been unspeakably blessed to have her support -- not the same for all of us, but what we each needed, showing her wisdom and compassion.
I have two amazing sisters. Mary, whose talent for sleeping we always joke about, is actually a girl who can do pretty much whatever she wants. She is beautiful, patient, smart and strong. She knows how to make her own fun. She had the good insight to marry a chef. She is spiritually wise. Marta is a girl everybody thought was my daughter -- she was born when I was 15. (She just turned 18, which means I am now old.) I am floored by her ability to achieve and be involved in worthwhile causes like Operation Smile and a student shadow government in her town. I admire the way that, at such a young age, she is able to decide what is most important to her. Lovely and stylish, she is ultimately fun to follow as she grows into an amazing woman.
The last little woman in my family life is Z. Who is chubby and happy and funny and sweet, and who is teaching me everything about everything. Having a little girl has changed everything and nothing. I always wanted to make the world good and safe for her, even before I knew her. I always knew she would overcome whatever obstacles life placed in her path.