A link in a chain


Jul 17th 2012


I am a link in a chain of women. This thought came to me this morning after a day and a half with my daughter and granddaughter, a day and a half that left little room for attending to anything else. We are at the beach together for the first time since my granddaughter was born nearly two years ago. This beach, Ocracoke, is perhaps my daughter’s favorite place on the planet. Coming here throughout her childhood played a huge role in her decision to become a marine conservationist.

But the chain. It escaped my notice before today, probably because my family of origin placed such a huge emphasis on boys. It has been quite overtly patriarchist. Two examples. Both my brother and I were named for my father. And one evening my father announced at my dinner table that his grandsons, my brother’s children, were his only real heirs. This in the presence of his daughter and beloved granddaughter. So it has been very easy to see women as peripheral. At least in the context of family.

The chain. My mother’s mother was the older of two sisters (no boys). My mother the oldest of three (also no boys). I do have a brother (and I think my mother was very proud to break the chain in this particular way), but in my line, for the moment at least, there are only girls. I have a daughter, who has a daughter.

This came to me, I think, because I have neglected almost everything else in the last two days. I chat and catch up with my daughter in the rare quiet moments that arise when you live with a toddler. But mostly I hang out with my granddaughter; I figure out that for the moment it makes sense to let her put the jigsaw puzzle together however she wants. I pay close attention when she speaks, which is most of her waking moments, so that I can participate in the burgeoning language that is a glorious mixture of English and Kendallese. I change her diaper and help her eat. Partly my absorption comes from living on the opposite coast from my girls most of the time. They live in Seattle. I in North Carolina. Partly, it is ordinary grandmother behavior. And partly, I think, it’s part of the chain.