Here’s the world I grew up in – Italian men ruled, the president was in charge of America and the pope was in charge of the world. That was it. That was the hierarchy.
Of course, within it there were subcategories. What Monsignor Vincent said was the word of god, even if he was just praising the grade school Christmas play. What the Salesian nuns said was even more the word of god because – well, you know, Jesus listened to Mary so we had to listen to our mothers which somehow put women above men except it didn’t.
I never thought I’d live to see the day where a woman was sworn in as vice president while another woman – a Supreme Court justice – swore her in. I don’t know if words can express what that moment meant to me. In one instance, the world into which I’d been born, the world that had been slowly crumbling around grumbling white men, was gone. Whether it is gone for good or not is up to future generations of women. I’m still of the belief that if we take our eyes off the ball for an instance, it will all go away. We will be back in a world where men made women get out of bed to make morning coffee because they were somehow incapable of doing it.
My childhood world was dominated by white Italian males. It doesn’t get more traditional than that. While my father and many – but definitely not all – of my uncles were capable of producing some pretty amazing meals, I never once saw them in a kitchen washing a dish. I never saw them change a diaper. I never saw them play with their kids. My dad never felt a need to take me with him so we could have some time alone to bond – I think he felt being my father already did that for all eternity.
I grew up in a world in which women indeed had it all in a very unfortunate way. My mother was responsible for the kids, the meals, the housecleaning, the wash AND working all day with my dad in our grocery store. She had it all – family, work… well, that was actually about it. Don’t get me wrong. My dad worked his butt off to give us a better life too. It just seemed that he had one job and mom had all other jobs as assigned – and that was all other jobs.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that none of the women at the top of our government have selfishly kept all those other jobs to themselves. They just seem to me to be the kind that would share. I think my mothers and aunts would have shared too, given a choice. And they were given a choice when the daughters they raised were old enough to take on some of the childcare, cleaning and washing chores… at least, that’s the way it was in my world.
So was not within my imagination to think that I would live to see a woman elected to the second highest position in the land, let alone a black woman. I know this is almost considered sinful to think or say out loud amongst certain groups, but I was more moved by Kamala than Barack because, in the end, he was still a man.
My mother had a weekly housekeeper growing up, Coreen. Coreen was Black. She came from the north side of a still very segregated Atlantic City. Yet somehow she and my mother formed a bond that would last long after Coreen retired. My mother was so impressed that Coreen raised professional, college educated sons on a cleaning lady’s salary. Coreen was impressed that my mother could do it as a grocer’s wife. It was a kind of mutual admiration society between two women who knew how hard it was to just be a woman sometimes.
My mother visited Coreen right before she died. That bond they’d shared as they raised families in the 50s and 60s never severed. I think they are both wherever it is that good people go after death. And I think they looked down on Inauguration Day and smiled broadly. Women on the Supreme Court. A woman vice president. Women governors. Women mayors, congresspersons and senators. Where once the picture would have been blindingly white and male, now it is a vortex of colors mixing and matching and mixing again. Yep, they’re smiling now.