Falling in Love… With Characters

There’s this little picture I keep seeing on Pinterest (that of course now I can’t find) that reads, “The Moment You Fall in Love… With a Character.” At first when I read that I couldn’t think of any specific character I’d loved. Movies, sure. Books, sure. And then the names started pouring in. I remembered reading the American Girls book series when I was in elementary school and loving Addy and Samantha so much. I would have done anything to be their real life friend. This graduated to a love of the sisters in Little Women. If I could have only been a sister to Jo, been wrapped in the warmth of Marmie. My copy of Little Women was illustrated and I spent hours copying the drawings of the March family.

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Nothing would ever compare to my childhood love of Laura Ingalls. I read the Little House on the Prairie books over and over again. Laura was everything I wanted to be. She was strong, independent, and feisty. Although she was often wrong and made many mistakes, she was never mean and always fought for her world to be fair and just. When I was in fourth grade, I dressed up as her for Halloween. My best friend was a ghoul. We were a strange pair wandering the streets and knocking on doors. No one knew quite what to make of me.

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When most people say “fall in love” they don’t mean the way I’ve described. But how else can you describe it? It’s rare for me to love a male character. They seem wonderful, charming, endearing, sexy, thoughtful and so on from the pages or the screen but the idea of meeting them in person makes them immediately less appealing. I like them where they are. I don’t want to know that they never put down the toilet seat in the bathroom or don’t clean up the sink after they shave. Maybe they’re not much for spooning at night or they watch football too loud. I like to see them delightful and fun on the screen but I already have an imperfect lovable man in my life. I don’t need another. Instead I fall in love with female characters. Not in a romantic way but that I would love to meet them in real life. I would love to meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, the teacher, and discuss her pioneer upbringing. I would be delighted to come over for tea in the March’s house and hear the girls fight and play.

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The characters that stand out to me as an adult are Ruth and Idgie. Do these names ring a bell? They’re the two lead female characters from Fried Green Tomatoes. Ruth’s incredible loyalty to her friends and family and Idgie’s unyielding demand for justice make both these women so seared into my mind forever. The sense of humor and ability to make light of hard times takes these fierce personalities into well-rounded, lovable, real characters.

When I think of Ruth and Idgie, I think of a friendship and love story that is timeless. I think of incredibly strong women. 

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I Like Strong Women: Kay

I like strong women, as you know. And in accordance with yesterday’s summer solstice, I can only speak about one woman- my mother. The summer solstice is her birthday. My mother is a strong lady. She’s the kind of lady you’d like to know (if you don’t already). She’s the kind of mom who will tell you why this isn’t a good idea while continuing to be supportive. She is a mother and a friend to all. More than once we’ve walked through the grocery store or into a shop only to have multiple young people (kids my age or younger) run up to her, want to talk to her, give her a big hug. It wouldn’t surprise me if she lends you her car (or mine) for the day just because you need a hand. Or maybe you need a place to stay? That’s what guest rooms are for, she’d say.

It’s hard for to sum up why my mom is someone worthy of the strong women category. How do you describe your mom? That’s no small task. I’ve been brainstorming what key words I think describe her. Arts, education, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, respect, absolute cheeseball.

My mom has worked for University of North Carolina School of the Arts for over 20 years in different capacities. I don’t think she picked this job because she wanted to support the arts. I think she started there because it was part time and she could be home by the time I got off the bus from school. Despite this, it has become her passion. She may be a staff member there but she is also a patron. While she might not be able to help fund your local production, she’ll put up one of your out of town stars or crew members for a few weeks while the show is up, if it will help you save a few bucks. She’ll donate cakes or cookies at the School for students to sell for fundraising. And when the curtain goes down, she’ll be that audience member who starts the applause.

As did many women of her era, she chose to get married instead of finishing her college degree. And while I don’t think she’d ever choose to change her life story, I do think that she would like to have finished school. Because of this, she has always been a loud supporter of education. She has been pursuing her own degree off and on for the last few years as time has allowed and she has always encouraged my sister and I to better ourselves with education and any other means at our disposals. As an employee UNCSA, she has always tried to help the students she encounters have meaningful experiences.

I don’t think anyone could argue that my mother is not a woman of principle. She believes strongly that how you treat other people is the most important thing. While she may not always live up to her own expectations, she strives for all her interactions with others to involve generosity, kindness, respect and when appropriate, forgiveness. My mom lost a car and a bike by lending it to someone (one got totaled, the other stolen from the temporary owner) who needed it and would do it again, without a moment’s hesitation. She is always willing to listen to those who need to vent even when she is tired. She would never dream of intentionally being disrespectful to someone else. And although, it may take a while and it may be a struggle, she strives always to forgive because letting go of such things helps her as much as it may help the other person.

My sister and I often think that she is too generous but she isn’t blind or a fool. She takes action with intention and understands the consequences. To her it is more important to give someone a chance and get taken for granted, then not to give them the chance at all.

She’s no saint. She’s a mom and does all the kinds of things that make you roll your eyes and go, “Aw, MOM!!!” in that oh my gawd, you are so embarrassing sort of way. She can be bossy and she can be wrong, but she’ll typically admit that she is or at least that she understands where you’re coming from.

I am lucky to have such a strong woman in my life to be my example. A few days ago, a friend asked me what good qualities/traits that my parents gave to me. My mother has given me an avid curiosity, a belief in the importance of family, the knowledge that only you can truly make yourself happy, the idea that art can be education in itself, to have pride in being a woman, that I should always want to better myself whether that mean exercise, education or being a better friend to others and that nothing is better than laughter and wine around a kitchen table with the people you love.

Happy Birthday Mama. I love you.

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Who’s that pretty mama?

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