Six. They in turn raised seven. And they in turn are raising four.
In order of birth, they are Cheryl, Bobbie, Vicki, Christi, Shannon, and Lori. Together, they are known by many as The Flood Girls. Most of their lives, they were raised by a single mother. They grew up with and without, knowing times of prosperity and adversity, and oftentimes running wild.
I am the daughter of Bobbie. While my mother was pregnant with me, my grandmother (whom I called Memaw) was pregnant with her youngest child, Lori. I have often made the joke that I am so southern my mother and grandmother were pregnant at the same time. This unique situation, though, placed me five months older than the last Flood Girl, so I was always raised more like one of the sisters. For an only child, being born smack into a line of women around my age provided me the experience of sisters without having to always deal with the pain and annoyance of constant siblings.
Growing up with the Flood Girls meant summers spent outside playing baseball, riding bikes, fighting with neighborhood rivals, sneaking money out of Memaw’s purse for snacks or the jukebox, lemons and watermelon sprinkled with salt enjoyed on porch steps, drinking pickle juice, basketball, dance contests, and generally thinking we were pretty bad ass. Visiting with Cheryl meant fun with cousins Allison and Hannah, soap operas in the morning, poboys from Freez-Os, crab and crawfish from Jane’s, Family Feud and Jeopardy on the computer, Yahtzee, and coffee. Time spent with Vicki was time spent learning about basketball, makeup, that it was okay to be a tomboy and a beauty queen, and getting to hang out with the “older” kids that I thought were just so cool.
My mother was sixteen when she got pregnant with me, so I literally grew up with these women. These are strong women. Women who have stood on their own in times of personal strife and never wavered, never fell to the floor, never gave in, and never gave up. Through it all, they have marched onward, with a level of determination and humor that is unmatched in my daily life. As a woman, when you are raised by a single woman, you have a keen insight into what makes you, where you came from, of what you are capable. Being raised by Wanda taught these women that they came from incredibly strong stock, that they had the blood of pioneers in feminism that allowed them to look at something that was normally assigned as “men’s work” and proceed to do it themselves. I have seen these women build something from nothing using only their hands, fix cars, remodel homes, till land, hang wallpaper and drywall, repair and install appliances, and drink beer. When they find themselves backed into a corner, I have never, not once, seen any of these women fall to the floor in despair. Instead I have seen them stand up straight and come out fighting…or I’ve seen them bust a hole in the wall and walk right through it.
Being a Flood Girl isn’t just about being tough or dealing well with adversity. Being a Flood Girl also means being funny as hell, being able to hold court in a room full of people while you tell a story, being able to make others feel welcome, and having a desire to help people when they’re in need. It runs through us, every one of us. I never laugh more than when I am with my mom and her sisters. I never cry in hysterics or run the risk of pissing my pants more than when these women are congregated. They never fail me.
We are now into the fourth generation of Flood Girls with the births of my daughters and the daughters of my cousins. Four generations of women and, lord help them, the men who love us. Four generations of strength and love. Four generations of laughter and wit. Four generations of balls and brass.
At one point, as we were going through our divorce, my now ex husband made an off the cuff comment about me needing him. I looked him square in the eye, back straight, shoulders leveled, and said, “Did you expect me to just fall to the floor? To give up? Have you met me? Have you not met the women who raised me? Don’t you know who I am?”
I am a Flood Girl.
Originally published at medium.com