Posted by: JanF | September 30, 2010


On September 30, I always think of my Memére. September 30 is her birthday and today she would have been 105 years old.

It is actually not that crazy thinking about her being 105 years old. She lived to be 96 years old and for most of her later life, she had lived independently in her own little house.

And independent she was. She always worked outside the home…one of the few women of her time who did. She worked in a shoe factory as one of the seamstresses making shoes. She was considered one of the experts (they would always give the fanciest and trickiest shoes to her) and after her retirement, the factory bosses would bring her piece work and she would do it at home. That was back when shoe factories were in New England and shoes were made in America.

I was more fortunate than most people because I had my grandmother for a very long time. But I still sobbed uncontrollably at her funeral and by myself at her graveside later that day. I had stopped at the cemetery after the funeral party (we are French Canadian…everything is reason for a party) on my way to the airport. I have never been back.

The year she died, I was able to get what I now cherish and is hanging on the wall in my office: a 4 generation picture of her, my mother, me and my daughter. I wanted a way to connect my daughter to my past and that past included my roots in the town in Massachusetts that I grew up in and where my ancestors lived and worked.

The connections we create or are created for us (my daughter is adopted so I created that connection on her behalf) and link us to one another are important to our humanity. Many of us have families we did not choose and families that we do choose. And networks of friends who we feel close enough to that we consider them our families. These are the connections that touch the part of our being that makes us empathetic and caring and willing to help someone who is in pain. And make us not just human but humane.

I would add some more things about progressives and progressive values but this is my Memére’s birthday and I am writing this because every year on this day I get sad and weepy and my plan this year was to write about it instead of crying.

It didn’t work.

(A version of this was originally posted on 09/30/2010 at BPI Campus)



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