In her book “Dance of the Dissident Daughter”, Sue Monk Kidd writes about the importance of knowing ones “FOREMOTHERS” and how exploring our foremothers through writing could be instrumental in helping us know our true authentic selves. For are they not a part of us and we a part of them?
So, in the spirit of my FOREMOTHERS, I offer this:
Here’s to my Maternal Great-Grandmother, Belle Zora Joy-Davis who lived most of her life on a Dairy Ranch in Yava, Arizona and was the mother of 13 children. I cannot imagine how hard her life must have been or what she taught her daughters about the big wide world at the turn of the Century.
To my Paternal Great-Grandmother, Emma Mae Craw-Matli, (Grandma Short) who bore 5 sons and a daughter and even though 4 ft 10 in, was renowned for her vigor around the Infamous Matli Ranch in Williamson Valley, just outside Prescott, Arizona. She ruled with an iron fist for 5 decades and though she lost a daughter, Mary, at age 28, her sons did become “TRUE COWBOYS” working a cattle ranch, riding bulls and broncs in the oldest Rodeo in the U.S. from the 1920’s to 80’s, when her last son died and the ranch and land was sold to developers.
To my Maternal Grandmother, Beulah Belle Davis-Matli, whom I never got to know, as she died on Christmas Day when I was 2, yet whose life story is nothing short of an inspiration as I have learned some 50 years later. She was a victim of domestic violence, (from a man she was married to for a brief time, not my Grandpa)….she almost lost her life, yet she overcame great adversity.
To my Paternal Grandmother, Ferne Dorothy Kapp-Jones, of whom I have fond memories. She took me on adventures to pick wild raspberries in the Arizona mountains, made the greatest apple plum cake and told me of her theory of “the Methuselah gene.”
And of course, to my Mother, Gay Yvonne Matli-Jones, who left me with her gift of grace on a snowy day almost 40 yrs to the day of her own Mother’s death…she said a GRAND GOODBYE to me in “Harry Houdini style” and still speaks to me in my dreams….
And I have to add three cousins to this tribute. Strong women who are connected to me through blood and bone, love and spirit, and whom, if I never got to know, I would never have learned so much about my family story:
To MARY MATLI, daughter of my great uncle Charley and aunt Vonnie Matli. Mary was instrumental in helping maintain a family legacy and keeping honor and dignity in the MATLI name, as best she could. From birth, all she knew was the Matli family. She lived and worked the ranch with her parents as she was an only child with no siblings, and most important as some would say, NO BROTHERS…..yet, she worked hard, endured much adversity and family turmoil and to this day, she is a pillar of strength, goodness, and pure heart.
To SHAMAYA RENMARK-FURMAN, my second cousin and grand-daughter of my maternal grandmothers’ sister VIOLA….we connected on ANCESTRY.com and she provided me with family history from my maternal side (mom’s mom and all those 13 siblings)…..so rich was the history and it changed and transformed me in a positive way, making me feel I had learned more about myself than I could ever have known elsewhere.
And most recently, to MARCIE JONES-HOLTHUS…..my first cousin, daughter of my dad’s brother. Boy did I learn a lot from her about my dad’s side and she even got me in touch with other family members. She and I have written to each other, comparing notes about our lives, as I had not seen her since I was four years old….it was a bittersweet reunion that made me feel more intertwined into the tapestry of human beings that I am related to. I feel grateful that I’ve found “my people” and know so much more about “who I am”……The cool thing is THESE COUSINS ARE STILL ALIVE and I can tune in, show up and connect with them if I so desire.
ON THIS DAY, I HONOR ALL OF MY FOREMOTHERS FROM GENERATIONS PAST AND PRESENT…..for as women, we DO NOT have just ONE MOTHER, we have MANY MOTHERS….young and old, weak and strong, vibrant lights and soft glowing embers……some in the shadows; some in the forefront. And if we sit still, open our hearts and truly listen, we can hear them speak to us……We hear and feel them in the storytelling, in the ephemera of faded black and white photographs, in the remnants of relics long saved that remind us of long ago and make us feel connected….in haylofts and dusty trails, in the songs of nature at the break of dawn, in the smell of a newborn calf, in the summer monsoons and all the chores that still need to be done…..we feel them.
TO ALL MOTHER’S…..here now and forever gone……I feel your strength, I feel your comfort, and most importantly, I feel your hearts…….m.e.