In my family, the women tend to do the heavy lifting while the men — well, the men are nice and fine and they love us for a time. Then at some point, it seems that they tire of their indeterminate role in our lives, so they wage a campaign of passive resistance, and then they leave.
I come from a family of women. Nature played its part (my mother is the youngest of four daughters and I am the youngest of three), but so did the tidal outflow of men in our lives. In time, my soon-to-be husband became an ex- husband, leaving me with — yes — a daughter to raise. And it is this daughter, Emily, now eighteen, who one day looked around at her family of women and declared us to be the Mighty Queens of Freeville.
Our realm, the village of Freeville (pop. 458), isn't much to look at. It's located on the northern fringes of Appalachia, in the rural and worn-out landscape of upstate New York. It's a town with one stop sign, anchored by a church, post office, elementary school, and gas station. There's a little diner called Toads, which seems to go in and out of business roughly on the same schedule as the floods that bedevil the creek that runs behind the village. (Toads and Fall Creek both seem to jump their banks on a regular basis.)
My family has called Freeville home for over two hundred years. We've tilled and cultivated the land, tended chickens and Holsteins, built houses and barns and backyard sheds. Most significantly, my family has made more family, and that's the main reason I continue to call this little place home. My mother, three aunts, two cousins, one of my sisters, three nieces, and a nephew all live in a tiny ten-house radius. My home offers one-stop shopping — family style. Though I've lived in New York City, London, Washington, D.C., and now Chicago, for me, all roads lead back to my hometown.
My mother and two of my aunts raised their children alone. My two sisters, Rachel and Anne, were also single parents. When I got married, I deliberately tried to reverse the family's terrible marital track record, but failed. Afterward, I did what I do best — and what I've been doing off and on through my adulthood.
I went home.
The women of my family taught me what family is about. They helped me to pick up the pieces when my life fell apart, and we reassembled them together into something new. They celebrated my slow recovery, witnessed my daughter's growth and development, and championed my choices. The women in my life showed Emily and me in large and small ways that they would love us, no matter what. They abide.
From The Mighty Queens Of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. Copyright (c) 2009 Amy Dickinson. To be published Feb. 3, 2009, by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.