I don’t suppose I had yet thought of myself as a woman — 18 years old — my freshman year in college. It was something I knew I would have to earn. (In typing this, I only just realized the nearness of the words earn and learn. Maybe a part of me knew this all along — the importance of learning.) So I signed up for my first course in Women’s Studies.
As we began navigating through the required reading, it turned out that the history of women was really just “history.” We were there from the beginning. We weren’t just on the trail, we packed the wagon.
One story got in deep. I think about it often — her often. They began, as most of the stories did, on the east coast. They were about to travel west. All the way west. In a covered wagon. She was already lonesome. Leaving behind her mother and father. Just a young married woman, she loaded the wooden wheels with the comforts of home. Her clothing. A little furniture. Keepsakes. Her mother’s dishes. The trail was brutal. Unforgiving. The animals suffered to drag their belongings. The wheels broke away. Mile by mile she let things go. The furniture. The keepsakes — (she cried at the irony of the name.) Dress by dress, dropped along the hidden trail. She couldn’t look as her husband coaxed the horse. The wheels clunked. The dishes remained in the dirt.
We often measure our relationships by what is given. Perhaps we need to look closer at, not the wagon, but the trail. I am grateful for the professor who pointed this out, reminded me, but truth be told, I already had the best examples. I had my grandmother. My mother. I still do. They gave their time. Their hearts. They made each wheel-worn step with grace. Clearing a path.
I pray that’s what I’m doing with these stories of them. Of us. Learning. Earning. Making a path. Making it a little easier for someone else to travel. Hoping we can all, one day, find our way.