Each year at my first siting of the crocus rising up from the winter-turning-to-spring ground, I remember my grandmother. Her yard had crocus planted in the flower beds and I remember that each spring when those flowers came up, she noted them with a wistful smile on her face. I don’t know what memories those flowers brought forward for her, she never shared that with me and in my youthful ignorance I never thought to ask. But now, and for as long as I can remember, whenever I see them popping up, I think of her.
Thoughts of her lead me to thoughts of her daughter, my mother. And I miss her more in the spring than I do most other times of year. Tulips were my mothers flowers and so when I see them I think of her.
And then there is the bearded iris and the roses that also bring these women into my mind and being and so spring is always all about them, much as the month of December is for different reasons.
But the flowers… I know why they remind me of them, but I don’t know they chose those flowers. I don’t know why both my grandmothers loved roses so. I don’t know why my maternal grandmother fawned over her iris in the way she did. I don’t know why my mother never planted a flower in her life and yet had plants and flowers that were about her in all the many ways.
I have a Christmas Cactus that blooms whenever it seems to feel like it. It was my mother’s plant and I remember if from my own childhood in the very pot (and probably the same dirt) it is still in today. The cactus has blossomed around my daughter’s birthday in April, the day of my baby shower for my son and then the same year the week of his birth (these events being about a month apart). The cactus bloomed immediately after each of my miscarriages. It has bloomed around my birthday and at the time of my grad school graduation. There doesn’t seem to be rhyme nor reason to it’s blooming and even though I am not a very woo-woo person, I tend to believe that the blooming of this plant is my mother saying hello in her own way.
My maternal grandmother loved her garden and my mother avoided gardening and I have a bit of a black thumb though I do try and then my daughter, of she is all about the plants and can’t wait for a house with a yard so we can grow All The Things. I see in her the creativity and naturalness of my grandmother, but not the harshness and I am hopeful she, my daughter, is able to stay soft in all the right ways.
My grandmother taught me that family is everything, and that they are our roots. And even with this, I consider how little she ever really shared about her family and how little I actually know about people either of my maternal grandparents came from. And while I could dig into genealogy that’s just not where I am right now in my life and knowing dates and names isn’t really what I care about anyhow. I want the stories. I want the hows and whys and feelings. I want the details that live in my body but don’t have words to have structure and be concrete instead of nebulous.
We all have origin stories, we all have people we come from, and some of us may know some things about some of those people and some of us may know a lot of things about a lot of those people and some of us may know little to nothing about any of those people. At least, if we are talking about conscious knowing, about verbal knowing, about the knowing as it relates to stories and dates and facts.
And even when we don’t know the stories or the who the people were or the dates or any of the facts, our bodies do. These people who lived before us, live within in. They are there in our DNA and show themselves in the color of our eyes or the shape of our chin or the width of our hips. They are there in our DNA and show themselves in the “illogical” anxiety and the “unreasonable” depression and “hysterical” responses we have to seemingly innocuous things. They are there in our DNA and show themselves in our resilience, and willingness to keep trying, and our strength to carry on despite or in spite of or because of it all.
These people who came before us are part of our origins, whether we know, consciously, the details of them or not.
And while these people who came before, who we may have known or may not have, who we may have known parts and pieces and aspects of but never the whole story of them, while they are a part of us and our story, they are also not our whole story.
They are a piece of our origin stories. But not the whole part. And while they contribute to who we are and how we may be in the world, we do not need to allow them to define us or to create our narrative about our life for us.
For years I compared myself to my maternal grandmother, my being and my life itself. The fact is that the egg that made me was created within her womb as the woman who would later gave birth to me formed and came into being. And so there is a tie to this woman who gave birth to my mother, who create 50% of what would become me, that I have that is beyond words and time and is all biology and physics.
But my tie to her was greater than that in ways that I can’t explain with words because they are feelings that are so strong there are no words for them. And because of this tie I wanted my life to be the life I made up that was hers. And I tried to measure up to this fantasy I had created in my head, that couldn’t possibly be real because all the facts of my own lived experience told something different. But sometimes in order to survive we push facts and reality aside so our brains can stay unschismed.
And so for years I tried to live up to a fantasy and then finally, in time I realized what the fantasy was – not real – and slowly began to let it go and started to have compassion for myself and for these women who came before me and shaped me in so many ways.
This compassion, this is the thing I hope to pass on my daughter. My hope is always that her own origin story will be something of fire and ocean and vast forests and deep knowing and so much self loving that her heart sometimes bursts.
Because as I have more compassion for me and for them I am able to make the changes and shifts in my own ways of being. To make choices because of conscious knowing instead of following a cycle because that is what one may do.
All of this and more is why each spring I offer a circle on our female lineage, on our ancestors, known and unknown. So we can bring into knowing ourselves, so we can each write our own origin stories, so we can find compassion, so we can come together in community and see we are not so alone.
We will begin on April one and there are still a few spaces available. If this sounds like your own next steps in your journey of self actualization and liberation you can find more details and request an application here.
I’d be both honored and thrilled if you chose to join us.