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Women’s Stories

I read the epic of motherhood in the comfort of home

Motherhood in her full span lives in my neighborhood.    
    In the eyes of eight-month-old Alexander Ehecatl Groves, Ana Dorates is queen of the universe. She is our Madonna, mother adored. But she is only one chapter of an ageless story.
    The women of Fairhaven Cliffs span the whole story in its many stages. We are — to borrow the seven stages of the Finnish mythology of the ­Kalevala — maiden, wife, mother, crone, sage, warrior and healer. As we travel the womanly continuum, we do not abandon who we were before. Childless or childed, each woman is stirred by the baby, the role Alexander will so briefly play. For the mothers among us, Ana awakens in each of us memories of our own babies in our arms.
    At the other end of the spectrum, no matter how young we are, we see in one another what we are becoming. Girls, mothers, grandmothers: we are one community; now and again, one family will span three, even four, generations. We have a whole community of women who have passed, still living in communal memory.
    Many among us are in life’s early chapter, the maidens. Nearly three decades ago, I moved into a Fairhaven popping with children, many of them girls: Ariel and Emelia, Stephanie, Sarah and Mary, Maureen, Megan and Lisa, Betty Elizabeth, Leslie, Maggie and Colleen, Alex and Katie Lee, Anastasia, Lily … In this age of marrying late, many remain their own women in their 20s and beyond, making their way in the world before taking on the responsibility of making a home and ­family. They are wonders, thrilling and inspiring those of us who remember when fewer women could become what they dreamed. They are poets, dancers, scientists, dreamers, teachers, world travelers and beauties as well. One is a warrior, a Marine Naval Academy graduate.
    Marriage is calling some of the maidens. Mary and Leslie are soon to be wives, with Leslie’s wedding planned on our little Fairhaven Beach on June 13.
    Leslie’s sister-in-law, Kelly, is soon to enter the next stage, growing with her baby.
    Stephanie, who has moved away, is the mother of two school-age boys, Jason and Ethan, and has plumbed the depths of dread when her younger was found to have a brain tumor at only six. He is winning his battle.
    Other mothers have lost children in untimely twists of fate. Those tragedies surely make them sages.
    With time we bear that least desirable of title: crones. But the long perspective of the Kalevala takes the sting out of the word, defining crone as wise woman and elder. We step into that role as our children step out of our lives into their own. Now our goal, says the ­Kalevala, is “to achieve true knowledge through experience and to be able to retain, apply and transmit it.” That’s a role I’ve watched us all grow into.
    It was to gain their wisdom that we begged our sages to tell us their stories. Many have been shy to claim any wisdom, but that’s still the girl in them speaking. We who asked knew its truth.
    Healers? I wonder about that role. Perhaps it’s in our leaving we achieve that role. Motherless we all become, sooner or later. Bearing that role among us now is Debra Gingell. Long of Fairhaven, her mother, Jean VanHoose, left this world on April 24, six days shy of her 91st birthday. For Debra — and perhaps us all — healing is part of the grieving: “Throughout my life I hope for her to be proud of me,” Debra wrote in memoriam. “The words she wrote in my Easter card gave me peace in knowing that held true.”

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com