Like most stories about women, mine is greatly inspired by my mother. Born in Virginia, she was raised in rural Massachusetts and lived in several states across the midwest before settling in Baltimore, Maryland. Among other things, she has been a teacher, a margarita drinker, a job coach, and a song writer. Years ago, she wrote a poem for me called ‘Legacy’ and it still evokes emotion for me – each time I read it I feel loved.
Legacy For my daughter, Colleen You come from a long line of strong women, I know sometimes you feel overwhelmed in this living And the frantic pace of the world around you. There are times, I think, you want to hide yourself away And curse the talents you were given. Please, take time to reflect on the women who came before you: Melissa, the nurse who landed on the beach at Normandy And “carried away cargoes of pain”; Bertha, who gave up comforts and security To follow the man she loved into the mountains Harriet, who led a distinguished life of public service And still visited schoolchildren at the age of 100; Ellen, who went south to teach children of freed slaves And then went on to become a doctor in a frontier town; Mary, who carried her husband’s body in a buckboard For more than 300 miles so he would have a proper burial; Betsy, who died in an epidemic After taking care of all the sick members of her family. The list could go on… Oh, my daughter, While we carry our fathers’ names We carry our mothers’ hearts And their strong sense of fairness and determination. Even more, we are living proof that their love endured. A love sometimes brought forth From great sacrifices and sorrows. You come from a long line of strong women. Do not turn your back on them, For their stories cry out to be remembered and honored. You are their gift to this time and place. Let yourself be nurtured by their spirit And go forth every day, knowing that you too Were born to be strong. Barbara T. Swanson May, 2000