Steel Magnolias

When I first saw this movie about thirty years ago, it became an instant favorite. Many times, I’ve watched it simply because I needed a good, cleansing cry.

The story has so many beautiful elements. It follows a group of women friends through the love and heartache of life. And it does so with a backdrop of the changing of the seasons.

I didn’t initially appreciate the powerful imagery suggested by the title. Magnolia flowers are large, beautiful blossoms which grow on a magnificent tall tree. Steel is a hard, strong material used in construction. These two words seem to contradict one another. Yet together, they create a picture of beauty and strength. Exactly what the women in the story portrayed.

My mom has six sisters and two sister-n-laws. That meant eight aunts for me growing up in the Mahar family. Along with my grandma, these women are the definition of “steel magnolias.” Beautiful, strong women who have each faced their share of challenges.

After a recent visit with some of them, I began to think about their list of accomplishments. I first created a list of their names and wrote a brief description next to each one. Although they might not recognize it themselves, their qualities and achievements are quite impressive. The following is a comprehensive list describing all of them collectively.

Daughters and sisters
Wives and mothers
Aunts and grandmothers
A single mom, a grieving mom
Breast cancer survivors
Adult college graduates
Artist, nurses, a pianist
Three widowed, one remarried, two deceased
Women of faith
Hard-working
Opinionated
Dependable
Teachers
Faithful
Friends
Patient
Loving
Strong
Kind

Muriel, Pearl, Mary, Elizabeth, Geneva, Sharon, Linda, Martha, Jeanie, Linda

I’m thankful for my mom, grandma, and aunts. Each embodies this picture of strength and beauty in their own way. And together, they create a strong family tree. A tree with strong roots and beautiful blooms. “Steel Magnolias” able to face any challenge this life brings.

Schemes to Switches

I’ve previously mentioned that my husband loves referring to me as a schemer.  Once an idea enters my thoughts I work to make it a reality.  This particular trait appeared way before meeting him. I’m certain my mom could testify. One example from my childhood stands out clearly above the rest.

I don’t remember exactly our age, definitely younger than ten.  The “we” was me and my cousin Rebecca, a great schemer in her own right.  Born only twenty days apart, we were always close growing up. Rebecca has five younger sisters. Imagine seven little girls when you added me to the mix!

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~Me and Rebecca~

There was one specific instance when I’d been invited to spend a few days with my cousins. We all piled into their Volkswagen Bug and began the thirty-minute drive to their house.  During the short trip, Rebecca and I immediately began plotting.

Our scheme? Secretly sneak out of their house and walk several miles down a dirt road to visit her Uncle Jack and his family.  Why were we being sneaky?  I have no idea! But we were all ready to go the next morning.

There was one small problem.  Barbara, one of the younger sisters apparently overheard our conversation and insisted on tagging along. What if we said no?  She would tattle on us, of course!

Off went our little trio, down the long driveway, and out onto the dirt road.  We were not even past the house when we heard Aunt Mary’s voice, “Rebecca? Kelley? Barbara?  Where are you, girls?”  We attempted hiding in the ditch, but Barbara started to cry.  Shushing her proved impossible and we were quickly discovered.

Our adventure was foiled, and talk about being in trouble. Aunt Mary took a switch to our legs while we ran around the yard like a bunch of chickens.  Though the switch didn’t really hurt us, it did help teach us a valuable lesson.  Seeing this now as a parent, I’m certain we caused Aunt Mary a great deal of panic. She was, after all, attempting to keep up with seven young girls.

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~The six sisters and me all grown up~

Reminiscing over this little adventure has brought lots of laughter over the years.  But the best part of the story is yet to come. To this day if we mention it around Aunt Mary, she still feels terrible about switching us!  Forty plus years later!  She has to be one of the most kind, patient, calm people I’ve ever known.  Managing all of us girls while keeping her sanity had to be challenging.

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~My mom and her sister, my Aunt Mary~

Did our scheming pay off in the end?  Well, not exactly the way we had planned. We did learn an important life lesson about being safe.  But even more important, we were reminded then and continue to be reminded now, how much we are loved.

I love you, Aunt Mary