Monday, September 17, 2007

Ladies In Waiting

I am one of the lucky few who were raised in a household that included my maternal grandmother. She is quite an influential figure in my life and will always adore her for what she had taught me. My Lola is the embodiment of how it is to be a true lady.

As my mother never gave up a full-time job amid giving birth to three rowdy children, we were often left in my Lola's care whilst growing up. And with me being the youngest, I was favored the most -- given the best part of the chicken, having the most sweets piled up on my bowl, minor gifts sneaked here and there, and I lapped it all up with no shame. I would often watch her daily regiment in amusement as she moved with womanly grace in everything she did. She would meticulously primp herself to beauty everyday even if she were just staying home. Her curls were always intact, carefully dyed of a natural brown color, and her lips sealed with a pink shade of lipstick and perfume daintily dabbled on her neck. As she was a skilled mistress, her clothes always fit her perfectly in styles that she knew only flattered her curves.

My Lola is also a very pious lady. She maintained a strict prayer scheduled scattered throughout the day, some of which she let me join. Every morning she would wake up at five and say her morning prayers, to be followed by the Angelus at noon, the three-o'clock habit in the afternoon, the Angelus again and then her evening prayers. When her health still permitted her, she also attended mass every morning at the crack of dawn. The way she held her rosary beads and prayer books were so fragile as if she were holding the Baby Jesus in her hands instead. The way she turned the pages so slowly and how her lips moved without sound as she read the litanies -- somehow, I found it mesmerizing. She did everything in such grace and disposition that I thought, how could God possibly deny her of her prayers?

After my nanny left at seven years old (as I was deemed to old to have one), my Lola took over in caring for me. She taught me how to bathe myself thoroughly showing me how to prepare the sponge and the basin, and she meticulously helped me every morning to get into my school uniform (not to mention drag me out of bed with great difficulty), and always inspected my final outcome from my socks all the way up to my hair band. She taught me how to be a girl.

As my grandmother was born early into the first half of last century, it is just to be expected that she is a typically conservative one. I remember having a male friend over to the house a few years ago as I needed his help to sort out my ailing computer. And upon knowing that I let him up to my room, she raged in fury that we stay in the living room where we can be in plain site. My mother simply laughed at the gesture when I informed her of it that same night and begged me to understand that my Lola is indeed from a different time. During her time, women were to serve their husbands, to keep house and to maintain her feminine dignity and integrity. My Lola having worked as a secretary in the American Airbase back during the American rule in the Philippines was already deemed quite radical.

My mother, though not as hardcore as her mother, is still quite conservative I find. She would laboriously attempt to teach my sister and I a thing or two about the kitchen and cooking whilst growing up as she would constantly chide us "How will your future mother-in-law like you if you can't even cook a chicken stew properly?" My sister and I, of course, rolling our eyes until they were practically at the back of our skulls.

Here I am now, a quarter of a century old, and not entirely sure if I passed the tests of womanhood. Though I display traits of an independent coming-of-age girl, I know deep inside that I will be unable to shake off what I learned from two of the most remarkable women in my lives. Given how the world works nowadays, I still consider myself relatively conservative in my stances. I may shame my mother for never cooking (unless desperate) and wearing non-collared shirts to church, and my Lola for continuing to bicker with the opposite sex, but I'd like to show them one day that they didn't fail me. I still hold some dignity in being a woman and the need to be respected as one -- just in my own subdued ways. I still hold in high regard the modesty and integrity, cleanliness in body and surroundings, and of course, grace in actions and movements (as much as I can, at least). As I need to be consistent with the times and the unfolding liberties presented to women, I must use my best judgment as to when it's okay to be bold and forthcoming without sacrificing my merits as a woman (and without being accused of being a feminist either!).

I may enjoy the independence that my Lola and mother didn't have when they were my age, but I would like to think that I am still bound by a moral code of ethics that come with being a lady. The term "conservative" seems to change every generation and its meaning gets lighter and lighter. I fear to know what my daughters will say of me when it's their time to whinge about their uptight mother that don't let them wear skirts with lengths within five inches of their thighs! And I do not look forward to going back to my mother to get advice as to keep said daughters from running out with the boys at age eleven wearing these skirts.


Blogger Libby said...

oh, this is a beautiful post!! brings back a lot of memories for me! i remember my mom trying to teach me to cook & clean...God forbid! the poor woman!!

11:20 PM  
Blogger Queen of Dysfunction said...

Sounds to me like you have found the perfect blend of your grandmother and mother's feminine ideals and your own. How lucky you are to have had such women in your life!

11:21 PM  
Blogger JollyRoger said...

Beautiful post!

12:26 AM  
Blogger Kati said...

Oooh, I love your memories of your Lola! How fabulous!!!! It IS funny to feel that oneself is conservative, but to know that we're not nearly conservative enough to please our parents & grandparents. In somewhat different ways, my mom & Mom-mom (Dad's mom) were very conservative women, each elder generation a couple of shades moreso than the newer. And yeah, I worry about my daughter's morals as well. ;) It never really ends.

Lovely Monday-morning post!!!

3:10 AM  
Blogger Superficial Gibbering prater said...

Fist time am reading the word,femininst with a negative connotation,how delightful!!!!!
And hey........ "skirts with lengths within five inches of their thighs" this is what i call "emanicipation" of women..alas i think i should wait for another 30 yrs for tat... :P

11:56 AM  
Blogger The Black King said...

I think it is a timeless tradition --- the older generation moaning that the newer generation is going to the dogs and the latter in turn rolling eyes and all that. But perhaps what we fail to realize is that each generation moulds itself according to the surroundings, and therefore the timeless values (such as those of propriety and feminine grace which you mention) will be there in a different manifestation no matter what. All that the older generation needs to do is to give proper guidance, not try to walk the path for the new one.

As usual, a good post, Princess. And sorry about the rather long comment.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Aditi said...

reminds me a lot of my conservative background and my fear at raising children

4:55 PM  
Blogger paddy said...

My granny always wore her rosary beads rapped around her clasped hands as I seem to remember her propped up on pillows in bed downstairs in the parlor which was to be where she would spend her last days.
I loved to come down in the morning and climb in beside her, it was heaven to me.
You awoke her memory in me today, thank you.
O yes, and so you should be made to feel (like a natural woman) good about yourself- finding yourself. I wish you well.
Y;-) Paddy

10:14 PM  
Blogger James said...

I think it's a good thing to have inherited standards..something that seems to be missing with a lot of people in England lately.

By the way thanks for visiting my blog again..I am sure your own shining knight will be along when you least expect him!

10:30 PM  
Anonymous ruby said...

That was lovely, you have been very fortunate to have had them in your life and they have been fortunate to have someone like yourself who values it!

My gran to this day does the "how will your mother-in-law like you if you don't know how to make blah blah blah"...

1:05 AM  
Blogger Zee said...

my granny used to stay awake and keep an eye on the door till we returned home and then would forbid us from coming home later than 8pm and this was till just a couple of yrs ago!!!

there is something about grannys dressing up. even mine, at her prime, would wear freshly starched clothes, with perfect lipstick and make a perfect bun every single day........

1:42 AM  
Blogger The Mad Girl said...

I haven't been lucky to have been brought up by a grandmother.I never saw my maternal Granny and my paternal granny was frail and weak as a child herself.this post however doesnt remind me of what i missed in life.It fills me with a strange, soft light.a silk-smooth affection.
you are too good with words and memories.

3:02 AM  
Blogger `NEFTY said...

TRUE, how can God deny her prayers with all her praying she does!? Lol. But anyways, good post. I never lived with my grandmother though.

4:11 AM  
Blogger Jennifer McK said...

I don't think you shame anyone. Whether they've said it or not, I'm sure they are proud of you.
I also remember rolling my eyes often at my mother. It's amazing how many of the lessons she taught me stuck with me.

5:15 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

My grandma lived to 105 anf for about 25 to 30 of her last years she lived in a house with 5 rapscallions, a mother and father that both worked white collar jobs. It was a two family house with an upper and lower, the upper being granny's house and the lower the seven of us's(is that a word?) house.

Needless to say the lower was a constant state of confusion but the upper was serene, calm. A place where real baking and cooking went on.

Where talks of her life; she was quite the independent young woman who left and graduated secreterial school and moved from Ottawa to Winnipeg for a job at age 19.

Then to Toronto to work for the Red Cross during the WWI, it was there she met the love of her life to whom she was married at age 38 and nine months later at age 38 she had her first child , then was widowed after 38 years of being a housewife, and then 38 more years of being a widow.

She too would walk to church a mile each way every day for morning mass until the 'hood just got to tough.

After pops died my mom and her sold me the house and they moved to a safer area but she was a wonderful conversationalist right up to her last year then she began to think she had gone full circle and was back at the farm. I was her brother Simon who I found out was like her father a brawler. Her fathers nick name was Rowdy, mean as a resting snake disturbed but not in the company of his wife or children them he loved and would let no harm come their way because they were Irish in British Canada.

I too loved my Grandma, she was a woman of great belief in liberty and never missed a vote from 1919 until her death, she was liberal but in a prim sort of way.

I guess what i am trying to say Princess you can have all your Grandma taught you and all your mother taught you and adapt those lessons to your generation, and eventually pass the evolved lessons to your own daughters and sons.

That is the way knowledge given in love and kindness gets from generation to generation.



7:56 AM  
Blogger sAssY brOwn said...

What a truly lovely post. I have little doubt you are making them both very proud on a daily basis.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Keshi said...

**My mother, though not as hardcore as her mother, is still quite conservative I find

so is my mum. tho she's a free-minded easy-going mum, sometimes she can be quite conservative. well its like Im not conservative either...sometimes I am!


12:44 PM  
Blogger Lord Chimmy said...

My grandma drank bourbon, cursed, and smoked until she died at 82. She was a pretty good role model for a young boy.

Well, at least I don't smoke.

2:49 PM  
Blogger drips of paint said...

thought of my own grandmum after your post...

you have a good family & upbringing!

3:23 PM  
Blogger Lucid Darkness said...


This is one of those posts which make me smile while I read it.

You write splendidly.

1:19 AM  
Blogger foam said...

trust me, sweet pea, you are a lady.
you are a lady of the new century, the new millenium.

with this post you honor the 2 most important women in your life.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Jac said...

A lovely, lively one from you Princess...thoroughly banter style

12:18 PM  
Blogger utopia said...

Loved this post. As most of the other readers it reminded me of my own Grandmamma who was so adept at keeping her house spick and span and managed bringing up her three children and and not to forget her two chit of grand daughters and that would include me hahah! She cooked like a dream and I have vivid memories of her . She had the most amusing collection of anecdotes about early 20th century India. Sigh!

There was something very endearing about this post Princess.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Isabelle said...

Great post - there's the basis of a novel there, I'd say.

7:05 AM  
Blogger samrina said...

Lovely post...

Hope you're well.

Take care

9:19 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

This reminds me of my Lola - looks like we're both from Philippine heritage! Thank you for that walk down memory lane - it was beautifully written.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Mridhulaa said...

wow....all grandmoms are really alike! My grandma says that if i speak to guys, my ears will fall off!!...*sighs*

It's really a lovely post you have here!!!

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My grandmother lived with us with me for a few years while I grew up. I was an only child and it was nice to have someone who would pay attention to me. But she snored and shared my room. :)

8:40 AM  
Blogger WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

"regimen"....I suppose. ??

2:53 AM  
Blogger WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

"feminism" is commanding respect...not demanding it. Your post says just that. great one !

3:11 AM  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Gnerations may pass but being a woman is eternal.


4:04 AM  
Blogger *~ Mayth!!~* said...

A lot I could relate to. The best thing about my granny is that she'd always come to my rescue when my mom would be the quintessential mommy and crib away to glory bout me not being the 'woman' she was at my age.
I used to love her for that.

Brought back good memories :)

4:12 AM  
Blogger thisisme said...

What a truly beautiful post.

4:31 PM  
Blogger nasia said...

i cannot believe a woman from a totally diff geographical area.. was bought up exactly the way i was.. :)

10:33 PM  
Blogger Sigma said...

A very warm and wonderful post, and really nostalgic.
And it is so true - however much the times change, and we change with the times, there will be some values that were instilled in us during our growing up years, that we will always believe in,

12:28 AM  

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