This was a good weekend.
Big things happened. Small things happened. We had glitter and balloons and cupcakes and tooth fairies and horses and pirates and knights and a cat who lives in a library. Superhero capes made out of pink sleeping bags. Fresh blackberries as big as my thumb. Sneaking cups of wine in a dorm room with women who have been my friends for more than half my life. A quiet blue heron sailing over a heart-shaped lake. Teaching my girls to hold their hands flat when offering fresh spring grass to the velvety lips of a horse.
I took my girls back to Wesleyan College for a mother/daughter weekend. Taking your children back to a place where you learned to be an adult is a strange rabbit hole of a time warp. Having to yell, “Don’t forget to wipe, flush and wash your hands!” down the same dorm hallway where I had to yell “Man on the HAAAALLLLLLL!” in 1988 is disconcerting.
Wesleyan is the place where I made an intentional decision to call myself a “woman” instead of a “girl” in the fall of 1989. Actually, the term was forced upon me. I had taken a position as an RA in the freshman dorm–3rd floor Persons, where we ALL KNEW they put the wild girls. We RAs came to campus a week early to learn the ropes of being part of the student life team. Our boss informed us that we were to refer to our residents as women, not girls, as a way of helping them make the transition from thinking of themselves as children to thinking of themselves as responsible adults. Okaaaaaaaay.
It was awkward at first. As a Southerner, I was used to three ages of womanhood: girl, lady, little old lady. It seemed like calling someone a “woman” was too abrupt or rude, robbing them of the ladyhood honorific. Like I was acknowledging only their age, not their manners, social standing, comportment….oh. It’s as if we were supposed to acknowledge these gi–women purely removed from all assessment of their ladylike behavior. Huh. Go figure. It felt like I was putting on a mask when I called myself a woman. About as convincing as when I put a towel on my head and called myself Cher. But it WORKED. Over the course of that senior year, I started thinking of myself as a woman because I called myself a woman. It’s like the difference between being alone and being on my own.
I can still be a lady, or a girl or a little old lady while I am being a woman. Just this weekend, I have been the tooth fairy, a mom, an alumna, a friend, a mentor, an official, a darling dear, a booster, a donor–all parts of being a woman.
It was the kind of weekend that will take me at least until Wednesday at lunch to sort out, but here I am on Monday. I feel like I am walking around with my head floating just above my shoulders, like a balloon losing its helium. My head will catch up and settle itself down into the rest of me. But it might be Wednesday before that happens.