Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Curse of the Kick-Ass Women by Linda Root

Boudicea byJohn Opie (PD-Art)
I just now signed off Facebook with a tear in my eye. A friend had just picked up the ashes of her husband of forty-eight years, and the experience, the utter haunting finality of it, was devastating. I wondered why I found her emotional response so poignant and I realized it was because my friend is among the world's kick-ass women, a feisty independent redheaded Georgia beauty, the quintessential USMC Sergeant Major's wife who could defend her children, support her husband, work a room of strangers, entertain and encourage her friends and stand up for her ideals as if it all came naturally, the art of being there for everyone who needed her and always being strong. And like other women I have known of that ilk, she is not expected to ever falter, ever waiver, ever just collapse and weep. Like the movie character Cat Ballou, she could 'never let them see [her]cry'. If you know a woman like that you are fortunate, but you are also challenged, because even the Dragon Lady and Wonder Woman have a gentle side, a side we do not want to see, because all of the rest of us need our champions, our Joan d'Arcs, our Wonder Women, and in spite of ourselves, sometimes we must put our needs aside and be there for them.

The entire experience of my  morning caused me to reflect upon the kick-ass women in my novels. In my work in progress my protagonist Daisy Kirkcaldy's son Peter has been kidnapped to extort her husband's silence concerning his knowledge of the plot against the king known to history as the Gunpowder Treason. And what does Daisy do? She leaps upon her Fresian Embarr and in defiance of her husband's request that she stay safe at home while he rides to the rescue, she engages the enemy, and although I have not written that far ahead, I am sure she will prevail because that is what she must do to please me, to make me comfortable and less vulnerable. I am as guilty as the rest of us in demanding that of her. Sometimes I forget that even the most formidable of my sisters, real or imaginary, must take off their armor now and then and put down their battle swords.

I remember the day of my seventeen year old son John's funeral. One of my mother's friends who was at the house afterwards approached and said, 'God must have great plans for you to give you so much strength.' I did not tell her that John, not God, had given me the strength to endure the day, because he was smart and sensitive and he knew how ill he was and what was ahead. He had been to a friend's funeral a few weeks earlier, an accidental tragedy for which his mother had been unprepared and she had thrown herself atop the coffin.

'I don't want you crawling on my coffin in a ten year old black mini . I want you to wear  something new and bright,' John said. 'Dress like a movie star, be funny if you can. Wear your orange heels  but try not to trip on the grave markers, and be nice to my stepmother.  Go easy on the eyeliner, just in case.' He spoke with foresight, not in jest. He had a hundred or more little sessions with me like that, teaching me how to let him die.  Sometimes now, thirty-four years later, when I am alone in the garage swimming in our i-pool he appears and swims along with me,to keep me from drowning. He has also taught me that playing the role of a kick-ass woman is both a blessing and a curse, and that even Boadicea wept when her husband was killed and no one else was looking.

 I know my friend will be fine on Friday and hopefully ever after. And so, I hope,will I.

1 comment:

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