This piece was originally published in the 2014 edition of True Words from Real Women, the annual anthology of life writing by the women of the Story Circle Network.
It is early morning and the three of us sit side by side: mother, daughter, and granddaughter. We are perched on the edge of my daughter’s new-to-her sofa, recently purchased then shampooed and shampooed again. We are peering at our smart phones, which are propped up on the also new-to-her coffee table. These ordinary pieces of furniture are symbolic of a fresh start and a strong determination.
There is no wi-fi in her apartment; the internet is scheduled to be connected later today. We have been relying on our smart phones to connect us to the web, ever conscious of how much data we’re using.
“How much data do you think it would take to play a music video?” my daughter asked a few minutes earlier, at the exact moment I invited her to join me on the sofa saying, “Come sit down; I want you to watch something.”
We laughed at the fact that our minds were going in the same direction. Courage. Strength. A need to get “pumped up” before we headed out the door.
From the time my eyes first opened this morning I have been thinking about how to help impart strength to her for what lies ahead. It came to me as a whisper, a lyric, a song I remember from many years ago. Funny how, at the same time, my daughter realized, too, that she needed music to empower her.
“I don’t care how much data it will take. Let’s do this,” I tell her. So the three of us sit together and I queue up the song on my phone.
“Listen to the words,” I tell her. “Just listen to the words.”
Helen Reddy begins to perform the anthem of a generation, a song I hadn’t cared for when I was young. But I had listened to it again recently, and the words had resonated. The message is one I believe for myself. I want her to internalize it as well.
You can bend but never break me…
I come back even stronger…
If I have to, I can do anything.
I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.
We listen together. I watch her face. She listens, she nods, she understands.
Then it’s her turn. She starts a song for her generation performed by a group I am unfamiliar with, Hedley. The music is different, not something I would choose to listen to, but the message is similar. I can do anything.
My granddaughter bops and sings along with her mommy; she knows the song, too. Daughter and granddaughter have sung these words together often over the past few days.
You can do anything. Silently I pray that the music will help my daughter find the strength she needs for today and the days to come; and that my granddaughter will grow up strong and independent, knowing she can do anything, as a result of the difficult choices her mommy is making now.
Later, my daughter checks herself in the mirror, as we get ready to head out for the day.
“Hold your head high,” I remind her. “Stand strong.”
Her spine straightens; she stands taller.
“I can do this. I can do anything.” She repeats the lyrics of her song and she smiles.
“You are strong. You are invincible. You are woman,” I agree. “You can do anything.”
We head out the door, taking another step on her journey, doing what she needs to do to ensure safety and sanctuary for herself and her daughter. She takes a path she would not have chosen but that she is faced with nonetheless, on a road that will call upon her to dig deeper than she has ever had to before, and to muster strength she never knew she was capable of.
She is strong. She can do anything. I am so proud of her.