Matriarch. Me? It doesn’t seem possible that I am now the oldest generation of our family. The female head, worthy of respect and reverence.
Sorry to say this is how you get here. You lose your mother, the former female head of your tribe. And before that your father. And your daily work is done with your own children. They have moved out and on. The next generation has arrived.
It feels like completing a loop on a trail that I have skied many times. I knew where I was, how far I had come, how far I needed to go. Not too many hills, I managed it without falling, and instead of going back to the trailhead where I started, I am directed onto a new course. It is challenging and hilly. The kind I have avoided in the past. I have no choice but keep my skis on and do my best to stay upright.
I am doing it even though I don’t recognize the trail markers or the signs. Some well-worn spots made by others who came before me make it easier. But there is nothing telling me how far, or what’s ahead. I have to be ready for anything.
I want to rise to this position of Matriarch.
Overseer of family tradition, hostess of showers, keeper of the calendar, spokesperson and family representative, trustee of the family heirlooms. The one who can be counted on to come to the wedding out of town, remember birthdays, and keep in touch with nieces and nephews. Tender of small children, planner of menus.
A part of my life is forever changed. The part of being in the world without your parents. The part when I am a child. The part when I am young. I have come to the lower ones, depending on how you look at it. In my grandchild’s baby book I am grandmother. When I think of an actual tree and how it grows, new branches grow at the top, and the oldest living branches become part of the trunk. I guess that’s me. Grandchildren and children are the expanding part of the tree supported by the solid base near the roots. My parents, and grandparents are there as well as generations that came before, even deeper in the root system. They are the ones that brought us here, established traditions, and formed our ways of being. They picked the spot to plant the tree. And lucky for us there has been enough to sustain us… nutrients in the soil, sunlight and rainfall, the things a tree needs to thrive.