my grandmother dreams

Lila

My bold, brilliant grandmother had a dream. Not quite big enough. But she was a she, and it was the 40s, and wasn’t she lucky to be born in the USA where dreams come true.

Decades later, as she helped her first grandchild with her French studies, those dreams were awakened, and she confided them to me–how she would have loved to work as a translator at the United Nations.

And hadn’t she had a good education, just like her mother, my great-grandmother, who danced at my wedding in 1990! and was born in 1898! long before our kind–the life bearers–had any right to dreams beyond the kitchen or the bedroom.

But my bold and beautiful grandmother Lila fell in love too soon and made love too soon and conceived a love-child, my father, too soon, and soon became mother of 5, releasing her dreams, without graduating from Douglass at Rutgers, while my dear grandfather went on with his studies and his career, living a richly supported life as an esteemed officer and beloved surgeon in his community.

And it was okay, because that’s what women do.
Look around.

My father reminded me of this each time we spoke of my future and of what my dreams held.

My mother had none: Dreams. Education. Money.

But wasn’t she lucky to marry a doctor.
Wasn’t my sister.
Beauty has benefits.

My beautiful Grandmother Lila drank.
She raged.
She loved.
She died tragically in a car accident on a bridge when she was just a year older than I am now.

She was on her way to a PGA golf tournament, in her 4th year serving as an official, “a female official,” a distinction which must be made because officials were men, and hadn’t she fought for this right, meeting the President of the Bank that sponsored the tournament by chance at a cocktail party, refusing to shake his hand, and when he asked why, she told him, and all this in the spring of 1975, just a year before this country–where all men are created equal–endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights–among these Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness–celebrated its 200th birthday without realizing that many of us still didn’t have our piece of cake. Look for the crumbs, they said.

Fast forward to 2012, just as a book about Lila began to stir in me, just as I had the stunning opportunity to represent an NGO at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

I’ve returned ever since.
For her.
With a sister.
With a friend.
With my husband.
With both our sons.

cropped-431330_10150648560208746_1556857290_nWhich brings me to Trump.
Who represents our country for the first time at the United Nations this week.
Which, between me and my grandmother, feels like such a desecration. Like that jogger who defecates in the park each morning.

And then as if to say that nothing has changed since my grandmother dared to dream, or since my great-grandmother was without suffrage, Melania, dressed in hot pink, in the year 2017, almost a hundred years since women were acknowledged as full citizens in this country, addresses a UN audience–about the Golden Rule, and anti-bullying, and online harassment–(is irony dead?)–and I watch as the comment feed on the YouTube channel praises her appearance–angelic, gorgeous, HOT–and “What a beautiful caring woman this is,”… “A First Lady we can admire and respect” … “Finally some class back in the White House,” … “Not like that tran-ny baffoon… who spoke ebonics,” and “God Bless our First Lady,” and “Isn’t it nice to hear a woman’s voice at these times,” and “She represents all that is good in our Nation,” and “MAGA is happening,” (a hash tag I had to google.)

And I understand.
We need to stay in our place.
Even if it takes a woman from another country to remind us.
So that men can stay in theirs.
And wasn’t this Hillary’s original sin.
As if it wasn’t enough for her–all those shoes and outfits and trips. Every girl’s dream.
While no boy, ever, dreams of one day becoming, despite the china and the photo ops, First Gentleman.

Wanting more was our mistake, whether with Obama or Bernie or Hillary, because things were already great, for them.

 

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