I was reading and commenting at a fellow blogger’s site, Hil the Thrill. If you haven’t read her blog, take a moment. Trust me.
One of the comments from today’s entry really struck me. It was a woman talking about her grandmother, and calling the grandmother the brightest, shiniest person she’d ever known. When Hil asked about that reference, the commenter replied again and expanded. The woman in question was strict, yet made her home a haven and heaven to those who knew her. She could chasten with a look, living with grace and joy.
My own grandmother fit that description in many ways. She was hearing impaired from the time I knew her and became fully deaf before her death in 2002. She never learned to drive, not in all those years. She never cut her hair until she was in her 90’s, because she promised her father that she wouldn’t. I’m not sure she agreed to do so when it was finally cut. By then, she had outlived two husbands and had lost much of who she was to the ravages of time.
Strikingly beautiful in a physical sense, she carried herself with regal bearing yet remained soft-spoken and humble. Were it not for her intervention when I was younger, I’m not sure I’d have survived and I’m positive I wouldn’t be the person I am now. She taught me tolerance in a sea of intolerance. She imbued me with a sense of peace where there was none. She was my refuge when my parents were hell-bent on their mutual destruction. She also had a mischievous streak, one I didn’t encounter until I was grown, one I wish I’d discovered earlier. I think she gave me my sense of humor, though her version was gentler than mine.
How many women, over how many countless centuries, have conveyed kindness, laughter and love to their families? How many have cooked and cleaned, changed diapers, foregoing the glamorous life because their priorities surrounded the things that really matter? I don’t mean motherhood, though for some of us that’s a part of it. I mean learning to appreciate the beauty in a single flower; enjoying a walk in the woods (or in my case, a roll through the woods, since my legs aren’t cooperating these days); gracing this universe with the best qualities of being human, and doing so without fanfare or celebration. There are men who contribute in similar ways, and we ooh and aah at it, as though they were extraordinary.
They are extraordinary. It’s just that we women as a whole are all of that and more. What for men is exceptional is largely the norm for women, for generation upon generation.
A friend of mine highlighted an article that talked about gender-swapping male characters when we read adventure stories to our little girls, to empower them. Bilbo Baggins of The Hobbit becomes a girl Hobbit, none to the loss of adventure. When I was writing my own story, I literally agonized over whether to carry forward with the way I split the focus between my two main characters. If I let the woman become the protagonist, would I antagonize male readers? The truth of the matter is, we women think nothing of reading adventure stories where men fulfill feats of derring-do, but the moment the lead character is a woman, many a male reader dubs the work “chick lit” and promptly dismisses it as a pile of emotional goo.
For the handful of you who read my book, you know which direction I took. I ultimately allowed the story to dictate, for better or worse. The second book is undergoing a similar trajectory, though it has many, many more characters and a different plot line, a more focused one. It is a journey, both from a writing perspective and (hopefully) from a reading perspective. I still need to get my print version up on book 1. For that I’ve got to create a different cover, which requires me to have a functional graphics program at my disposal. G promised to install it for me, which hasn’t happened yet. I already have a picture in my mind’s eye. I’ll get it done, sooner or later. Maybe even today.