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 © 2007 Paula Baker


Growing up in the 1950’s in a large Italian family, I was surrounded by males. I had 2 brothers, and nine cousins, all boys. When we gathered each Sunday for dinner at my grandparents’ home, there I was, the only girl, in a sea of testosterone. Of course, also present were my mother, grandmother and several aunts, but they were peripheral figures in the scene. There were no young girls for me to play with. If my brothers or cousins chose to interact with me, it was to play ‘House’ where I would have the role of Mother, or ‘School’ where I would be the Teacher. I soon learned ‘my place’ in that patriarchal dynamic. I learned that being a female, and the youngest one at that, put me at the bottom of the pecking order. I learned to keep silent, to go along with the program and to never question any decisions or actions. To question was definitely unacceptable, and to speak my truth was an even bigger no-no. Being raised in the Catholic religion, having attended 9 years of Catholic school, really sealed the deal. Although I loved going to church and school as they were the total opposite of the home experience, it was much like the male dominant dynamic in terms of the roles females were permitted to play. There was also that ‘my way or the highway’ thinking process which left little opportunity for one to actually explore or question any of the dogma being taught. You were either good or bad, going to heaven or hell…no grey area there, with the exception of Purgatory, of course. I was never quite sure where that was or what it entailed but it certainly didn’t seem like an appealing option. So I was trained at a very young age to walk the straight and narrow and never veer from that path.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I really began to realize that I had a voice, and something worthwhile to say. I was actually able to believe that I was allowed to have an opinion which differed from the crowd. This of course ruffled some feathers at first, but soon family members began to understand that this wasn’t a temporary ‘condition’…rather it was here to stay! ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ became my motto, although it was more of a meow in the beginning stages of my growth. I began to feel empowered, enlightened, and courageous. I was no Gloria Steinem by any means, but I did the unthinkable. I questioned, I sought the truth. More importantly, I found MY truth. I was finally growing up. Thank goodness, because if I hadn’t stepped into my power at that point, I could never have been prepared or capable of doing what I needed to do in the years to come.

Over twenty years later, I was to come face to face with my biggest fear. On January of 2010, my 90 year old father’s earthly life came to an end. He had been ill for a very long time, and given his age, the news of his passing was hardly a shock. However, the fact that we had discovered this information by reading his obituary in the paper, and learning that he had already been buried, was indeed a shock. There was no phone call, no goodbye, no chance to ask any questions or get any answers as his voice had been silenced forever. No one in his family had been informed, not even me, his only daughter. Without getting into any great detail, let it suffice to say that my need for answers was never more intense. I knew that in order for me, or any of his family, to come to peace with this situation and to accept and forgive, I had to find answers to my questions. The challenge for me was to find someone who was still alive and mentally capable, to provide those answers. Little did I know that I was about to embark on the most challenging journey of all…my journey to find peace and understanding.

Although at first I had no idea where to begin, within a few months I was to learn from many unexpected resources, the story of my father’s life, my mother’s life, and their life together. I was able to finally get the answers to the questions I had wanted to ask since I was a young girl, questions which, when answered, brought explanations and understanding, thereby providing forgiveness and peace.

I reaped many benefits from this amazing experience. I learned to honor myself, my feelings, and my humble beginnings. I learned to see the spark of goodness and love in each and every person and to understand that when we take the time and effort to search for the answers, we are able to love and forgive each other and ourselves. We are all One, coming from the same Source of pure love. Male or female, we are equally magnificent and always free to search for and claim our Truth and Joy. It is our birthright.

“Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but ‘How to dance in the rain.”