I stood on the shoulders of my sister, June, who would not accept that her only alternative was to marry and be a housewife.
She wanted to earn her own money, make her own decisions and she did. She earned a scholarship to college and then helped send me to college.
Without June's encouragement and support, I don't think I would have my B.S. in Education. My parents' hope was to have their seven children complete high school. College was too large a goal and seemed much too far to reach for my father.
June was taken under the wing of her art teacher, and she often spent weekends with the teacher's family. My sister was determined not to marry a local farm boy and work as hard as farmers' wives worked. She wanted a home like her art teacher had and lovely things she saw there.
June finished two years at GSCW (Georgia State College for Women, before she came home and went to work to help the family. Soon she was employed at Turner Air Force Base in Albany. By that time, the family had a new house and life was better for everyone.
I admire her because she never forgot her little sisters and was determined that we would have more opportunities than she had. In summer, we spent weeks with my sister and her husband, Stan, who was an officer in the Air Force. We saw a more sophisticated lifestyle and a home with finer things.
At their house, art by famous painters hung on the walls. On Friday evenings, Stan grilled a large steak. Although only he and June and Gay and I sat at the dining table, candles burned in the center giving a soft glow to our little circle, making the crystal and silver shine. Being there made me feel warm and loved. My sister showed me a life that I could have if I wanted.
Women living today have stood on the shoulders of the women who came before us. My mother showed me how to love unconditionally and how to appreciate important things in life that money could not buy - love, family, generosity and compassion for others. She taught me acceptance, a hard lesson for me. She did not enjoy the frugality she had to endure, but she had chosen to help her husband follow his dream and she did all she possibly could to make that dream come true. Without her, he and his sons would not have been successful, because she was willing to sacrifice for her family. I am thankful that she prospered as well when the family business paid off.
I have stood on the shoulders of my sister, Gay.
Her giving heart, her genuine caring for others, has been an example to me. She is an unbelievable artist and has inspired me for many years. Recently she inspired me even more when she decided to get in physical shape by doing something she loves -- dancing! When many women younger than she are complaining of aches and pains, are sitting in front of their television sets or sitting around a card table, she attends classes three times each week where she dances for hours. In a short time her endurance and stamina have grown as well as her self confidence and renewed interest in her improved physical appearance. I am trying to emulate her now. Every time I look at her, see how happy she is, I am overjoyed.
My painting instructor, my first poetry teacher and my friend, the first woman poet laureate of North Carolina, are in the same category--women who paved the way for me to journey on to where I am today. Without them, I would not have achieved much of what makes me the woman I am today.
Do you have women who helped pave the way for you, or gave you a boost to achieve your goals?
Are there women in your past who changed your life?