Iron Leg Warmers

My Momma. Gun, Purse, Cigarette. #iron

A handful and a couple of years ago, I was at a strip bar on Bourbon Street. Patron, not employee. We had stumbled in there after a boozy day and a whiskey night – very apropos New Orleans – debauchery, hedonism and decadence. I love that city. We took our seats. If you don’t know, Louisiana has minimal requirements on what must remain covered for exotic dancers. My eye was immediately caught by a girl at the back bar warming up for the main show. She was athletic and a master on the pole. She spun, “Look ma’, no hands”, she twirled. Her body was strong and graceful, a sight to behold. She had legwarmers on, an almost nude salute to old school. She was upside down on the pole, holding on only with her legs and I saw her bend up to adjust her leg warmers, a couple of times. I was intrigued. Why the worry? Curious, yes, but don’t be fooled – holding on to a pole with only her legs, bending her back, and then having the muscle control to descend without looking like she is having a seizure – well, that’s an athlete. Finally, at the end of her descent, I saw the purpose of the legwarmers. She had an ankle bracelet – house arrest. She could be at home or at work. Only. Girl has to eat. This is what I take away from that. Bloom where you are planted. Make the best of what is given. This is a blog about hard times and stories about women who are stronger, bigger, greater than the hardships thrown in their path. This is about women. This is about our metal. This is about our ability to overcome and show up.

Dulce is a pistol of a girl. Sugar raised a strong, in mind and spirit, woman. Dulce delights me. She speaks her mind in an East Texas drawl, a camouflage to her fire. She loves a man, one who will be her husband soon. A few weeks ago, his hand was mangled in a table saw accident. He was airlifted to Dallas to a hospital equipped for such trauma. Dulce waited for hours while he was in surgery, the doctors trying to repair the damage and re-attach his fingers. Dulce’s man makes his living with his hands, this wasn’t just a cosmetic repair. She waited. She prayed. She was stronger than her 23 years of life should allow. When the doctor came out to talk to her, he advised that one of the mangled fingers not be re-attached – it was 50/50 it would take. She told the doctor to proceed with the attachment, she said, “My God is bigger than that.” That has stuck with me. Dulce has a tremendous faith, and that faith gives her tremendous strength. She has been by his side during a rough physical and emotional recovery. She is strong. Watching someone you love hurt is hard and it’s easy to shrink away. She does not. After her man was released from the hospital, Dulce and he went to a movie. When they walked in, a man in the back, seeing his bandages yelled across the theater, “Hey – what happened to your hand?” Dulce turned to him and told him to mind his own fucking business, and that’s a quote. Dulce is loyal and fiercely protective, that’s the iron of this woman.

Whit is a force of power. Eleven years ago, she had her second son, her husband long gone before his birth. I remember her and I meeting for lunch when he was around 7 months old. Her son was missing parts of chromosome 9, a rare syndrome, and the doctors had very few answers. She told me she had been told to prepare for his not living past a toddler, he wouldn’t talk, he wouldn’t walk. Every word was crushing, every possible outcome bleak. She looked at me, I remember this so clearly, and she said, “They don’t know, they are wrong.” She and he persevered over many, many surgeries. She went to every kind of physical therapy and speech therapy available. She would not give up, and she would not acquiesce to a doctor’s opinion. There are less than a handful of children in the world with this particular gene deficiency, there isn’t enough information known for anyone to state with all certainty what will be. Whit fought with pure love and hellfire determination for her son. She never stopped. She showed up every day to whatever challenges, and there were many, and they were tremendous. Her son turned eleven a few months ago. He walks. He speaks. He will have many more challenges in his life and his mother will never stop fighting for him. This is iron. Maybe stronger than iron.

Iron is staying when leaving is easier. It’s showing up, pushing through. It’s offering kindness to the one who deserves it least but needs it the most. It’s taking the best out of a bad situation. It’s doing what you can with what you have. Women are adept at this, for our men, for our children. Here is what I know. Bad times are coming for all of us, it’s life. We are powerful forces that can change the course, ease the pain of another. Do that. Listen. Empathy is iron. I’ve talked about big challenges to women, but small acts are where change is possible and infinite. We are strong alone, but together we are unbreakable.

I will share this, because my mother is pure iron. For the last month of his life, my brother was on life support. The time came to end that. I couldn’t stay in the room. My father couldn’t. My mother did. She stayed with her son as he left the world. I didn’t have children at the time, and only when I was mother did I understand the sheer steel of this. Women stay. Women fight. Women bloom where they are planted. Women are capable of holding on to the pole when everyone and everything in them is saying let go.

Go forth and conquer.