Me: Okay, so, my first question might sound a little stupid, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually asked you this: are you a feminist?
Me: When did you realize you were a feminist?
Mom: Probably…? Oh, golly. Um, I think I realized that I was a feminist in… I think the eighth grade. And the thing that really sticks in my mind is, [my twin sister] Kathryn and I were out to dinner in like this little steakhouse place that was close to home with my mom, and for some reason, I think it was just the three of us, which was unusual … but anyway, um, something happened in the restaurant and I don’t know whether they, somebody came in looking for trouble, to sort of finish a fight with a waitress or something, but a man, you know, started to assault a woman and Aunt Kathryn and I both jumped up from the table and went that way and my mother was like, “Stop! What are you doing?” and I remember looking back at her like, “What are you thinking?” You know, that we would just stand there because we’re women? Um, you know, and the police came really quick and broke it up and stuff, but that was the first time I remember thinking, “No, I’m not just not going to do the right thing, you know, do what’s needed to be done because I’m a woman. That’s ridiculous!”
Me: So you grew up, um, I mean, you were a teenager in the 1970s, and um, sort of at height of the Women’s Liberation Movement, and all sorts of things like, title IX and Roe v. Wade and birth control had recently been legalized for non-married couples, what was your perception of women’s place in the world when you were my age?
Mom: You know, um, we think a lot about that generation, of the men who went off to war and came home and didn’t talk about it? Um, you know, and um, their service wasn’t honored and valued and they didn’t have the chance to work through the horrors of what they had to live through in the Vietnam War. But you know, we can think about women disappearing in 3rd world countries and women being systematically raped and tortured and things like that, but women disappeared all the time when I was young. They disappeared because it was their only choice. They either disappeared to go off somewhere and have a baby and live through having that baby and then having to give that baby up, or they disappeared to find a place where they could get an abortion and um, somehow make it seem like they were off on a trip visiting someone, and then they had to live with not being able to talk about it. So, men went off to war and had to live with those memories, women just came home every day and had to live with memories that were so difficult and so isolating. You know, when [a family friend] was pregnant the first time, that was the thing that just really got me, you know, I knew so many people who had just gone through really, really bad things and I just thought, god haven’t we come further? With parents still talking about throwing girls out and women still don’t have choices and you’re still stuck in this impossible place of having to make decisions that you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life and there’s just no good answer.
Me: So, what are the things you’re most happy have changed? And what do you think are some of the things, you know, compared from 30 years ago and 40 years ago still need a lot of ways to go?
Mom: Um, you know [laughs], your father asked about how your hand was doing this morning, he and I had breakfast together, and um, I said you know, I said the thing that really stuck me, about Elizabeth’s whole experience here, is I said, she’s a camp counselor. I said, if that had happened to a child in her care she would have known exactly what to do and she would have done it instantly. But I said, she has turned a corner, she is no longer a young person who um, the world revolves around them, I said, she was pretty much calling me, and you didn’t ask it, but what I felt was, what you were saying was should I suck it up and put a band aid on it and go to work? Or… you know, is it okay to take care of myself? And I said, you know, it hurt me a little bit that, because I said, I’ve—society has taught her to be that way and I’ve taught her to be that way, and I said, “That’s what happens to women,” and your father’s answer was, “Well, do you think it’s taught or do you think it’s innate?” And I said, “It’s taught.”
Me: So, what is your proudest accomplishment?
Mom: [Long pause and sigh.] What is my proudest accomplishment? [Sigh.] I think, my proudest accomplishment is you. You do, you live the life that I wish had been available to me when I was your age, and um, you… you know, if I taught you to do things like, say “should I just put a band aid on this gaping flesh wound and just go to work?” but, at the same time, um, I think I’ve also taught you to not limit yourself and I think that um, you’re really brave? I mean with all the things you’ve done with going to Honduras and Ecuador and stuff, those were things that truthfully I thought about, but if I really questioned myself, I was probably glad that my father said, “No, you can’t you can’t go study abroad, you won’t study and that’s not what we’re sending you to school for,” so um, there’s probably a part of that would have been really a little frightened if I had gone to France by myself. Um, and you might have been a little scared but I think you got over it pretty darn quick.
Me: What do you like about being a mom?
Mom: Oh, it’s like reading the best book ever. Um, every chapter is exciting, um, you never know what the next one is going to be, you can’t wait for the, uh, next episode, um, and uh, and it’s… it’s a glimpse into the future. And it gives you hope about the future when you know you’re raising the kinds of kids that will make the world a better place. It’s the thing I’ve always said about you when people ask me about you and I say, “You know, somebody has to save the world and Elizabeth is going to be one of those people.”