Mother is my Wonder Woman

I stopped aging at 27. I’m not sure why. It’s a mental thing.

Whenever someone asks how old I am, 27 is my go-to response. And then I think about it: “Wait, that’s not right.” I have no problem with getting older. Not physically, at least. I accept that my skin will eventually wrinkle, and that my hair will grey and thin. Perhaps it’s the actual race against the clock that I have an internal conflict with: Is there still time to do something great?

My 29th birthday was Saturday. Brian took me to Chez Josephine, a restaurant that attributes its decor and music to the joie-de-vivre of 1930s Paris, specifically Josephine Baker.

Baker was the star of stage and screen, known by many as the “Black Pearl,” “Bronze Venus” and “Creole Goddess.” She also volunteered with the Red Cross, was an undercover agent during World War II, and an activist in the 1963 Civil Rights Movement march on Washington. On top of her many achievements, she adopted 12 children of different races and called them her “rainbow tribe.”

Suffice to say, she was a larger than life figure – a true inspiration – who refused to “go gentle into that good night.”

Out of the many Wonder Women of the world who inspire, my mother is number one.

She always wanted to be a novelist, living in the woods, surrounded by gardens. Her first article, published when she was 26, talks about this dream.

In Mother Earth News, she writes about winning $50,000 through one of those through-the-mail promotional contests. With the money, she and my father bought a 125-year-old plank house in Eden, nestled among 10 acres of wooded land. The excitement in her voice is palpable as she writes about the fertile farming soil, the old chicken coop, and the spread of land they wanted to raise honeybees on.

“My 20s were some of the best years of my life,” my mother has told me on a number of occasions. “We looked good, felt good, and laughed often.”

I can envision her during that time of her life, smiling with heroic certainty.

She was 29 when she got pregnant with me. From stories I’ve heard, it seems like things tipped after that: she had a dangerous delivery; her mother passed away; my father lost his job and got sick

She wrote for local publications here and there, but never as much as she wanted to, never as much as she dreamed.

After my father passed away, she stopped writing altogether. Some people believe that great suffering is the stuff of great art. I don’t believe that; my mother’s creativity dried up with her grief.

She made a sacrifice when she had me. She continued to sacrifice her time to work hard so that she could clothe and feed me. She set her dreams aside so that she could encourage mine.

It’s only now – 29 years later – that she has started to talk about writing again. I love hearing the excitement in her voice when we discuss the novel-length narrative she’s working on, or the mother-daughter column we hope to start.

I think I’ll always be one of those people who races against the clock; patience is not my strong suit. But if I do end up creating something great in my lifetime, I know it was because my mother was there with me every step of the way.

Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to

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