Floye Mae was in her sixties when I was born.
One of my clearest memories is sitting next to her as a small child and carefully tracing the wrinkles on the backs of her hands. Her skin was no longer smooth - it was mapped with lines and spots, every one telling of her age.
But I remember, more than anything, how absolutely beautiful I thought she was. Her wrinkles, to me, were simply part of her. Her eyes were lit from within, and her fingers were still graceful with a crochet needle. Her hair was a pure white, and as young as I was she spoke to me like I was all grown up. She loved me, and I loved her.
I was thinking tonight, not just about Mae, but about all the women I grew up with. I remember them all as so...beautiful.
Their voices raised in praise during worship...
Some had beautiful smiles, or eyes....
One or two had grace.
Others had the gift of bringing alive the Bible and making me want to grow in knowledge...
In some I saw incredible strength - a core of steel.
Some sparkled - literally. Great big broaches or earrings in the shapes of parrots and palm trees...
It is my mother's laugh that makes her beautiful to me. The special gift a mother has of making you feel her love in every touch - she has given me that during some of the hardest moments of my life.
They love me, and I love them.
All of these women - and I don't know that any of them would call themselves beautiful. But, it's true. They were, and are...the most beautiful women I've known.
Appreciating their beauty helps me see my own. It helps me see the lines along my hips and the gray hair I found as beautiful. It helps me see that one day, God willing, age will create a map across my body - every child and heartache and joy will be in those lines and spots. Every trip I've taken and home I've made with my family...every prayer I've offered - will light my eyes.
Knowing them has made me unafraid of the future. I do not fear 30, 40, or beyond. I simply remember Mama Sug, who taught me to make pie crusts. Or Ms. Emma, who smiled and laughed at all her husband's pranks - even when he was old enough to know better. Mae, who taught me to crochet and loved to hear me sing. My grandmother, who truly has a take no prisoners attitude. And so many others. So many other women who showed me how to weather life well.