One of my greatest blessings is being the granddaughter of three unique women, who have each gifted me a life of wonder, unplanned adventure and audaciousness.
I was recently asked to write about a woman who has served as a radiant presence in my life. The challenge, uninvolved and served in Cambria font, inspired me to dig up the tangled and vibrant garden of my own femininity.
Before being presented with the pastel-smooched crown worn by young feminists and female-empowers throughout the United States, I was simply a barefoot child, with wavy hair and an extraordinary love for frogs.
Feminism, the patriarchy and activism didn’t exist in the canvas-like mind of a 5 year-old. Instead, I was simply an image of innocence in despairing need of women to encourage my missions to be Obi Wan Kenobi for Halloween and to remind me to never pander to rules made by rude boys on the playground.
My favorite activities often feature visiting one of my nana’s homes. Even as a 20 year old college student, I am still immediately encapsulated by their wisdom and insatiable yearning to celebrate life.
I am frequently returning to summer-drenched memories of my visits to each of them. We would sit outside in our pajamas, ignoring mosquito bites as we unraveled the secrets of the universe over strawberry-kiwi juice boxes and overflowing bowls of potato chips.
The grass, toxicated by July heatwaves and malfunctioning sprinklers, would tickle our toes and hide fireflies. My grandmas can fill the air with a variety of stories and philosophies, featuring concepts of romance, failure, self-preservation and a pursuit to societal liberation in all things.
They exist off a foundation of dancing on tables to rock and roll jams and protesting pipelines on beaches. Their love shelters my secrets, insecurities and the topics I struggle to share with anyone else.
Our relations, each of the three offering the same toasty wholesomeness of a 90s kleenex commercial and goldendoodle Facebook gallery, are sacred. They have traced me to blossom into a woman who trusts the will of higher powers, dives off of boating docks and dances through the street on bare feet.
This is my token of gratitude to my favorite grandmas: Rhonda, Nancy and Rhonda (yes, there are two Rhonda’s).
My Appalachian Trail Buddy
I often think about running away to live my days out in the wilderness-but I would only want to do so with you at my side. We will climb up the majestic cliffs and rock formations of Yosemite National Park and befriend black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains. We will read paperback novels in the Arizona deserts and eat Chick-Fil-A as we cruised the road in your Honda vehicle.
You were the woman who taught me to cherish the Earth and to allow dirt paths and the forest to be my true guides. You opened my eyes to a spiritual realm, where the mountains and the trees offer knowledge and wisdom. Together, we made plans to dive into untouched terrains, and to replace worry with the sensation of pure awe and wonder.
Photo Courtesy of Robert Bruning
My Ocean Queen
Together, we share the same wavy and untameable hair, a preference for hot weather and an out-of-control dolphin obsession.
You raised me in a realm composed of shimmering waves and a fondness of burnt skin.
We dream of undersea paradises and wear tropical prints with bronze bracelets anchored by starfish charms.
My favorite memories include you attempting to maintain my hair with a silver, antique brush we titled “my princess brush.” During each session, you referred to me as a wild woman with the aura of a chaotic tsunami. As you attempted to untangle my abundance of tangles and knots, you taught me to overlook the love of foolish boys, celebrate my wildness and that I could be a real life mermaid.
My Barefoot Hippie
During a Fourth of July pig roast, you celebrated our country’s birthday by burning your bra in a gigantic fire pit.
You’re frequently frolicking through the yard with bare feet and long, flowing sundresses I am always trying to steal from your closet.
You thrive in chaotic messes and on sticky dance floors, with a vibrant soul completely enveloped by your own love for life.
When I was younger, I was often baffled by the lengths of your liberation and unapologetic glow. You would sing to America’s “A Horse With No Name” as though you were on stage at Woodstock, and twirl on the Thanksgiving table as though you were the queen of a untraditional nightclub. You live a life genuinely free spirited and untouchable by society’s cloudiness.
But as you flourish, I follow your lead. You have inspired me to be the carefree dandelion I am always aspiring to be-and I can never thank you enough for that.
Photo Courtesy of Rhonda Shriber