Though I loved her best, Mama wasn't the only goddess. Along the roads of rural Trinidad, gorgeous Creole and East Indian women sauntered to market or the river with baskets or water cans balanced on their heads, and babies bouncing on their hips. Curvy? You bet! Men whistled and hooted their joy in them as they passed. How rich and fine they looked! The nymphs, slender European women like my beautiful birth mother, Ruth Isabel, seemed pale in comparison.
It was the same when we moved to Bogota, Colombia. The Indigenous women who descended into the city from the mountaintops, looked like bells in their multi-layered skirts and petticoats and black felt hats. City women, sleek and svelte in their dark suits and dresses, were elegant and severe. With my Trini taste for color and shape, I preferred the native goddesses.
Time passed, and we moved to New York where I went to high school and college. Goddesses were scarce as hen's teeth on my college campus. If a girl had voluptuous hips and breasts, she hid them under baggy sweaters. Since most male admiration was directed at nymphs, goddesses tried to starve themselves into fashionable shadows of their true selves.
I was too busy fighting my own battle to notice their plight. Neither nymph nor goddess, I was almost as tall as Mama Ethel, skinny as a rake, and nicknamed "Bird Legs." I couldn't get it right either. Forgetting the rich diversity of the West Indian and Latin American women of my childhood, I tried to plump up. I wanted to be a nymph, not a beanpole. Instead, I remained thin as Ribby Ratsoup, the starveling rat in a children's story.
Despite what I thought of as my shortcomings, I met and fell for a man who loved me as I was, married, and had three children. Two of them were daughters. We moved to Los Angeles, the capital of Thin. My oldest girl turned out to be a nymph; the youngest, a goddess.
How do you raise a goddess in a town where you can never be too rich or too thin? Bombarded with messages from the media that only Thin is In, a curvy girl has a tough time celebrating herself. And who listens to her mother? Especially when she joins the enemy, and packs your lunch-box with carrot sticks.
Then one day last year, I was visiting my youngest daughter in L.A. She's grown up now, a gifted singer, actress, and teacher with a rich, throaty laugh that shows her operatic training at Oberlin Conservatory. She has huge green eyes, yards of thick, blonde hair that I'd kill for, directs a successful children's theatre company, Stage Kids, that she started and built up herself; is married to an attractive Irish actor, and is a fabulous daughter, sister, and crazy aunt to her sister's children. I love to be with her. Amanda makes me laugh; she makes me happy. The only thing she's not, is skinny. That makes her unhappy. And when she's sad, I am too.
At the time, I was working on my first novel, a story set in Trinidad that was resurfacing my earliest memories. Looking at Amanda, I thought again how beautiful she is, though she doesn't always see it. I wished she could see herself in a new way. Suddenly, it hit me. How could I have forgotten what I saw so clearly as a child? Why did I fail to hang on to that truth and share it with my daughter? I didn't waste another minute.
"You're a goddess, not a nymph!" I said. Later, I made her the first Goddess Card.
I hope it's the first in a long series of love notes and affirmations for my curvy girl, and for women like her. Women who've forgotten---as I did for a while, or who've never been told---that bodies come in all sizes and shapes, and all of them are beautiful.
Great artists of the past---Titian, Reubens, Rembrandt, among them adored opulent women and painted them with love and admiration. I paint my cards with the same heart-set. I've joined the revolution: the Curvy Revolution! That revolution, spearheaded by role models such as Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O'Donnell, Michele Winston, and Emme; by breakthrough magazines such as Mode and BBW; by fashion houses and websites like SizeAppeal.com, UniquelyMe.com, VenusDivas.com, Just My Size, and Lane Bryant; insists that curvy women are sexy, glorious, frequently accomplished, and totally feminine.
It's long overdue. A goddess lives inside every woman who knows she's magnificent, inside and out. Goddess Cards celebrate that fact.
Anne Baird is the author/illustrator of eleven published children's books, has worked as a freelance journalist and artist for private clients, and for newspapers in Panama and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. She worked as an elementary teacher in Panama, New York City, London, England; and Denver, Colorado, and served as Director of Admission for a private school in Los Angeles before retiring to work full time at her writing and art. Anne and Joe Baird are currently living in Mexico City and Vancouver, B.C, where Anne just finished her first adult novel, DANCING GIRL, launched her line of Goddess Cards, and is starting her second novel. More children's picture books are on the back burner, inspired by her fabulous grandchildren, Alexandra, Whitney, Cameron and Courtney. Her children Tracey, Edward and Amanda, for whom she wrote her first books, are always a source of pride.