My grandmother did not go to school past the fifth grade. She grew up, quite literally, in the hills of Tuscany during World War II. Her lack of formal education was not a personal choice. My grandmother didn't go further than the fifth grade because she had to go to work even though she was just ten years old.
Despite her lack of formal education, she is one of the smartest human beings I know. She values education and teachers more than most people I've met. Due to her lack of education, she made it her mission in life to make sure that all three of her daughters had one. My mother, her eldest child, remembers when she was nearing the end of her high school career. Naturally, she started wondering what to do next. My grandfather wanted her to get married, have some children and maybe become a secretary. My grandmother’s response? Over her dead body.
All of her daughters were going to go to college, and they all were going to have the opportunities that she did not. My mother ended up going to college, and did so well academically that she was able to get a scholarship to cover her entire graduate education at Hofstra University. My mother has been a high school foreign language teacher for the past 30 years, and sheâ��s had an unbelievable career. When people think of the perfect teacher, they think of my mom.
I recently attended the wedding of two college friends. I was in the ladies’ room, and there was another party guest crying quietly in the corner. I asked her if she was alright and she explained that she had just gone through a traumatic breakup. So although she was very happy for the bride and groom, the wedding was reminding her of what she had lost. As I tried to comfort her, we made some small talk. I found out that she was from the town where my mother taught, and asked her if she ever had her as a teacher.
The tears stopped, and a smile broke out on her face. “OH MY GOD! Your mother is the reason I studied Spanish in college. She’s AMAZING! Please give her my love.” I assured her I would before both of us headed back to the party.
It’s funny, but that simple memory made that girl’s evening. It is my own personal belief that women, more so than men, find strength and determination in the most unlikely places, like a bathroom in a banquet hall. Imagine if my grandmother had not supported my mother in her collegiate and career dreams? Because of the support of my grandmother, my mother has been able to support and inspire countless students throughout her career.
My mother has often expressed guilt over not being able to be a stay-at-home mom when my brother and I were younger. She stayed home with us for two years when we were born, but then, like so many other working mothers, she hired a baby sitter. There has never been a moment in my life, though, where I resented my mother for working. Ever. And I can say with certainty that my brother feels the same way. She was always there when we needed her to be, without fail. Other teachers even look up to her without hesitation. She taught us that you really can have it all and that if you put your mind to it, there are simply no limits to your dreams.
Second image courtesy of Eweddingcaketoppers.orgCheck out Megan's blog by clicking here.