This Christmas I gave my mom the best re-gift ever. A couple of years ago, Smarty Pants had bought me When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins.
The book details the struggle for women’s rights and how courageously individual women fought against laws they knew were wrong. It’s incredibly inspiring, especially for someone of my generation (I was born in 1979) because the changes my mother’s and grandmothers’ generations carved out meant that I could take so many freedoms and aspirations for granted.
I gave the book to my mom because she’d seen Smarty Pants give it to me and she’d briefly stolen it from me to read the first chapter. I stole it back and said she could have it when I was done.
Mom was born in 1954. She grew up on I Love Lucy and Leave It to Beaver. June Cleaver was her childhood heroine, and Mom dreamed of a future wearing beautiful clothes and putting on her pearls to vacuum the house while her husband and two children were at school.
She got the two children. And some of the vacuuming (though Dad does at least half of the housework himself, something that must’ve seemed bizarre to Mom when they first got married).
Mom once told me her parents didn’t encourage her to think about having a career. My grandmother believed (and still believes) wholeheartedly in thick foundation and heavy skin creams. When I was a teenager, Nonny admonished me: “Honey, you have to wear eye makeup. Boys won’t like you if you don’t wear eye makeup. And quit wearing those boy-cut jeans. They make you look like you have a ding-dong.”