March 8, 2012, Festa della Donna

March 8 is International Women's Day, which means a lot of different things to different people. But for me it is a celebration of all that is life-giving and full of energy and love, and a denial of everything that tries to quell that force.

The boy dancing with his mother here was only three years old, years ago in Rome when we went to the airport to pick up our friends who were coming to celebrate the arrival of another baby boy. Mimosa blossoms  were being handed out in the airport, to celebrate the Festa della Donna. Him and his big brother each took a blossom and charged each other the full length of the arrival lounge, turning into knights in shining armor before our eyes.

I was in Cuba last week. The bar across the street from the cut-rate hotel reminded me of many of the bars and beer shacks in Africa, where the prostitutes did a brisk business with the white boys who came to drink, dance to the great sounds of east African music, and have a good time. The women were pretty, lively, and strong.

My mother is eighty-one. She comes to visit us in Italy every year around her birthday. She likes a good laugh, parties, and crowds.

We have a good crew of crones in our family - my great aunts all lived well into their nineties and most of them lived alone because of the Great War. One grew raspberries and kept bees. When I was pregnant with my first, she sent me a huge parcel of red raspberry leaves.

My aunt sailed across the Atlantic in a 21 foot sailboat and smoked a pipe. She was the one who rescued me from my first bottle of scotch when I was fourteen.

 I am honored to have met many, many women over the years who have committed to living life to the fullest. Some of these are my friends, some are my relatives, some I met randomly on a bus, some have been women I worked with. But all of them shared that spirit, that sense that life is not a padded hallway leading to some nice hotel room, but rather a difficult, sometimes dangerous and unexpected journey that leads to who knows where.

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