I was at the Farmer’s Market near MDK World Headquarters the other day, at the food court where you can get Cajun or Indian or a bushel of tomatoes for lunch. I sat down with my bulgogi near a table of women.
There were four of them, and they looked to be up to absolutely nothing. No rush at all. Sitting with their Diet Cokes, cooling their heels. Vacation mode. Capri pants and fun tops.
All of a sudden, they started laughing. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could tell that one of them had said something funny. One wiped her eyes with a paper napkin, another ground the palms of her hands against her face in an apparent attempt to keep from laughing her eyeballs out, and another actually stopped laughing because she’d run out of breath—then started laughing all over again.
It was so great that I started to laugh, too, two tables away.
I sat until they gathered themselves up—boxes of leftovers, tote bags—and headed toward the door. I loved them so much.
Women together. It got me thinking about what feat of logistics allowed this group to have that laugh together. I think of the everyday resilience that has kept them going. Somebody’s knee hurts. Somebody’s got grandchildren with stuff going on. Somebody wonders what might have been. They’re heroic, getting through each day until they’ve accumulated seventy or eighty years of days. They’re Grown Ups.
So what does this have to do with Eleanor Roosevelt?
She was the ultimate Grown Up. Her struggles were public, and her triumphs were often controversial, yet they never got the best of her.
Talk about a trajectory. Roosevelt was born into wealth and political power, but suffered the loss of both parents by the time she was ten. She married her fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a bad pairing. The scrutiny she bore was extreme for the age—she was the subject of endless criticism as she remade the role of First Lady. But what intrigues me the most is what happened in her later life, after the death of her husband.
She kept going. Full speed ahead until her death in 1962 at the age of 78, working for human rights, women’s rights, common decency and respect for all. We should all aim so high. And find such resilience.
You can see the full episode of “Eleanor Roosevelt: A Restless Spirit” here.