The Boston Girl : Becoming A Woman.
Throughout my career vacation and book reading extravaganza, I've been inspired and moved by the characters I've met in each book. The most recent book that really touched me was "The Boston Girl" by Anita Diamant. The themes, tragedies and triumphs of this story brought me to tears and had me laughing just a bit, but overall it made me SO grateful to be a woman in an era when the quest for equality is present and mutual respect for women of any status is encouraged. The women in this story lived during a time when their vote and their voice didn't matter and it wasn't easy.
The story takes place in the early 1900's in Boston. Boston. I heart Boston. I'm convinced a piece of my heart still lives in Boston. I visited while I was in college and it is a magical city. The history, food (Cheers! - be still my heart), waterfront view, energy and cute Harvard boys rowing on the river all the time made it basically my heaven. I loved every minute of being there. For this small town girl, the Boston version of city life was and is one that I dream of often. One of the best parts of Boston is the historical district. I caught a glimpse of it when I went to Cheers! to have dinner one evening. Big, beautiful Victorian homes that took my breath away. I would love to say that the characters in the book were residents of these types of homes, but they were not. They were a blue-collar Jewish family that did everything they could to survive living in their sufficient and very small flat.
Whenever I read a book I always look for themes that I can use in my own life and possibly a future blog post (nerd alert). This book is full of themes that struck me to the core: women's rights, depression, death and mourning, religious respect and equality, family history and love. Never ever forget the love.
The main character of the book is a grandmother who is giving her granddaughter a personal history of her life as a young Jewish girl in a family that had its struggles and much happiness. As I read this book I thought of my own grandmothers and what they would tell me about being a young woman in their day and age. What did they worry about? What mattered to them? What boys were they kissing before they met my grandfathers? What was their love story and how did they know they had finally met the one they were going to marry?
There were a couple of specific quotes that I wanted to share with all of you and why they were memorable for me. I won't tell you where they lie in the grand scheme of the book so there is still an element of surprise for the plot.
"When I look at my eighty-five-year-old face in the mirror today, I think, "You're never going to look better than you do today honey, so smile." Whoever said a smile is the best face-lift was one smart woman." This is beautiful. There are so so so so many days that smiling is the last thing we want to do. How do we keep a smile on our face when we've had a major disappointment? How do we smile through the tears when we've lost a loved one? How do we smile when the bank account is depleted and the fridge is empty and the car needs gas? Well, we just do. Fake it to make it. If we really got technical and scientific, we would talk about the fact that there are muscles in our face that need stretching just as much as those everywhere else. Stretch them, my lovelies! Put a smile on your face and embrace the beauties and blessings of your life even amidst the storms.
"She said she felt better talking to someone she could see, someone who cared about her. "The time I almost died in that bathtub, what kept me going was the look on your face and Irene's and that wonderful nurse. I could see how worried you were, not angry or disappointed. You just didn't want me to die. And afterward, too, you never looked at me with anything but love: no pity, no judgement. You made it possible for me to forgive myself." Phew. I so wish I could tell you the story behind this, but you'll have to read the book to understand the significance of this statement. Even typing it brought a lump to my throat. In my own life, I have been immensely blessed with so many kind, patient friends and family members who have stood in front of me and embraced me and proved to me how much they cared. In our insanely BUSY and technology-driven world, it is very easy to shoot someone a text and tell them we care, but the human-in-front-of-human interactions are SO critical. I loved the reference to looking at someone with 'anything but love.' That is a magical moment, no matter the relationship or its status. The connection that one can feel when their friend, family member, lover looks at them to convey their compassion is electric. It can save the day. It can calm the heart and soothe the soul. When was the last time you felt that electricity in your own life? Thank the person. Hug them back. Say, "I love you."
"Women used to think we were supposed to act as if nothing had happened, as if losing a baby you wanted wasn't a big deal. And if you did say something, people told you that you'd forget all about it when you have a healthy baby. I wanted to punch them all in the face." When I wrote my blog post "In My Life" I talked about some conversations I had that inspired me to write the post. One of those was a conversation with my dear friend who has multiple angel babies waiting for her in heaven. This week I witnessed the pain that is being felt by another friend who is facing the one year anniversary of her angel baby returning to heaven. Women are still facing the grief and pain that surrounds bearing and losing children. Medical advances are vast compared to 1925, but pregnancy and birth is still risky business and takes great faith. I commend my darling friends for their great strength and faith as they face their life of saying the number of pregnancies vs. living children.
"The Boston Girl" is a book that I will not forget for a long time. It gave me a perspective and appreciation for becoming a woman. I am LUCKY to have a vote, a voice, an education and a career that I enjoy. I am also LUCKY to have my health and an understanding of how I can cope on the days that aren't so easy.
The moral of the story: Becoming a woman in 2015 hasn't changed much from 1925. The scenery and fashion has changed, but ultimately, we still have trials and triumphs and hope for sunshine and happiness after the storm. Keep looking life in the face with love. Never EVER forget the love.
Until next time, my lovelies.