We all have funny stories from when we were kids.
Like the time your sister rode her bike into the pool, or when your mom let the visiting ducks set up a time-share in your dining room.
They’re the kind of stories that stand out to you. Hilarious in the moment, giggle-inducing a decade later. They’re loud. Obnoxious. Wild and dingo-like, as my mother calls them.
They make for perfect stories to swap with the new women in your life as you celebrate one another over cheap wine this International Women’s Day. But when those giggles grow sleepy and one by one you all head to bed, tipsy on friendship, I encourage you to reflect on the quiet moments from your childhood.
These are the memories that perhaps don’t immediately stand out to you as formative. (Perhaps because they don’t involve your sister hiding expired crêpes in her bedroom like a French Doomsdayer.) They are experiences whose effects were more subtle. Silhouettes of a blinding love that silently constructs your ideas of womanhood.
For me, these kinds of “quiet memories” take form in manicures and metaphors.
When my sister and I were still little girls playing make-believe, my mom would occasionally take us to get our nails done. (On the one condition we stopped tearing each other’s hair out like WWE wrestlers for the day.) I fondly remember how long it took my sister and I to decide what garish colors we were going to get painted on our teeny-tiny fingernails. I remember the flowers and polka-dot designs my sister and I would choose. And I remember vividly how I would—with alarming consistency—immediately smudge one of mine getting back into the car.
Meltdown locked and loaded.
Looking back, our mother-daughter manicures may have been simple, everyday, even expected activities for a mom and her two girls. But for me, they formed the foundation of how I bond with the women in my life today. Getting ready—the hair, the makeup, the nails—is my favorite thing to do with my roommates today. Just as my sister and I would pick out our nail polish colors, my roommates and I paint our nails on our second-hand coffee table in the cramped apartment we call home.
When I got a bit older, and a lot better at painting my own nails, my mom introduced me to poetry. It has always been in my life, so maybe ‘introduced’ is the wrong word. My mom always had poems hung up on our walls, written on notes in my lunchbox or tucked under my pillow with a quarter. But at some point, she instilled in me a love for it. Poetry Night at my elementary school was a night we both looked forward to.. When she posted two poems I wrote on her poetry blog I had never been prouder.
Words are sewn into the relationship I have with my mom. Her love for poetry taught me to express myself, to give my inner thoughts a voice. They are foundational to the connection we share. In a way, poetry itself is a metaphor for complex, intimate relationships we women form with one another. We become inextricably part of one another, just as our emotions are in the words we write.
The focal point of International Women’s Day is to celebrate the rights we’ve gained, the abuse we’ve overcome and, most importantly, how far we still have to go. It celebrates who we are as women and the ones who helped shape those people.
The manicures and metaphors of my childhood are a part of that for me.
As the sun sets on International Women’s Day—when my throat is hoarse from declarations of empowerment and my arms sore from hugging all my girlfriends—I’m going to fondly remember the quiet moments I shared with my mom and sister.
… and with the aforementioned ducks, a family of raccoons, a stray cat and a ton of lizards following close behind.