Embracing Change: Redefining Privilege, Challenging Patriarchy, and Honouring My Grandparents' Legacy - with an Excerpt from my Memoir, eScapegoat

Embracing Change: Redefining Privilege, Challenging Patriarchy, and Honouring My Grandparents' Legacy - with an Excerpt from my Memoir, eScapegoat

Excerpt from my memoir, “eScapegoat”

Chapter Title: Breaking the Mound: A Patriarchal Legacy 

In my family, the crack of a baseball bat hitting a ball was as familiar as our own heartbeats. The legacy began with my grandfather, who signed on to the St. Louis Cardinals at the tender age of 14. He travelled across North America, gracing the pitcher's mound for major league farm teams. His younger brother Bill carried on the tradition, retiring as a professional pitching coach with stints at the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox. Our family didn't just live baseball; we breathed it.

Our community honoured my grandfather, renaming our local ballpark the Stan Slack Field, previously known as Errol Russell. The Russell connection ran deep in our family; Erroll Russell was a border at my grandfather's home during his youth. As a tribute, our family added an additional name to the park, further entwining our shared history.

However, beneath the glamour of baseball fame and the pride of community recognition, a different narrative unfolded - one where the women in our family lived in the shadows. My grandmother, my Nanny, was the silent backbone of our family's success. She tirelessly fundraised and worked behind the scenes while my grandfather received all the accolades. My cousin, my little sister, and I watched her, a silent lesson in the inherent inequality of a patriarchal society.

Last summer, I advocated for a bench and a memorial to honour my grandmother's unacknowledged contributions. Her dedication and effort deserved recognition, a tribute to the woman who worked tirelessly in the background, supporting a dream that was never truly hers.

Despite our family's baseball legacy, my cousin, my sister, and I were barred from participating in the sport. We were also discouraged from pursuing trades, considered a "man's world." This exclusion took a toll. Each of us has battled addiction, a hidden struggle beneath our privileged upbringing.

Our travels with the baseball team, while exciting and glamorous on the surface, had a darker side. We were sidelined, spectators in a world we were a part of yet excluded from. This feeling of exclusion extended beyond the baseball field; we were denied the chance to participate in extracurriculars, further isolating us. I was lucky enough to figure skate for my childhood years.

This chapter of my memoir is a testament to breaking free from the chains of generational cycles. It's about the struggle for recognition in a world that often overlooks the contributions of women and the personal battles we face when living under the shadow of patriarchy.

Chapter Continuation: From the Ballpark to the Matriarchy

My grandfather, my Papa, was a beacon of compassion and fairness amidst a time of widespread racial segregation. We grew up on stories of his journeys down south to play ball. Of particular note was a tale of him buying sandwiches for his black teammates who were barred from entering restaurants in the small towns. These stories, while seemingly simple, were transformative lessons about empathy and equality.

Despite the societal norms of the era, my papa was a bastion of respect and care. Alongside my father, he treated us girls with kindness and dignity, painting a picture of how men should treat women. But he was not without his faults. As a married man in the 60s, he had his share of struggles, but he overcame one of the most daunting: alcoholism. In an era when alcoholism was often swept under the rug, he found sobriety, transforming into a pillar of support for both his family and the community's youth.

Papa was a firm believer in the adage, 'idle hands are the devil's workshop.' He was determined that every boy in our community should have the opportunity to engage in sports. His relentless fundraising efforts even took us to Alaska for a AAA bantam game. Although as girls, we were only spectators, the experience was nonetheless thrilling.

Our lives revolved around the ballpark. My Nanny and Papa were our constant companions, and we spent countless hours working in the snack shop. Nanny's burgers and fried onions were legendary, drawing fans from all over. We'd stay up late, rolling coins and filling out ballots for 50-50 draws, our small contributions to the ongoing fundraising efforts and Sportsmen dinners.

The politics of underrepresented baseball, the persisting shadow of patriarchy, and the spirit of community service are all etched deeply in my blood. Nevertheless, I consciously chose to channel my Papa's strength and redirect it towards becoming a matriarch. It is my mission to challenge generational patterns and patriarchal norms and to create a world where my sister's children can grow up with equal opportunities, regardless of their gender.

Chapter Continuation: From Orphan to Matriarch - Nanny's Untold Legacy

My Nanny’s past was shrouded in mystery. As an orphan, she knew very little about her birth family. She managed to reconnect with her siblings later in life, but her early years were marked by hardship. Shuffled around within the orphanage system, she endured unspeakable abuse until Mrs. Norman, her foster mother, took her in. It was during this time she met my Papa. She was so young that she felt compelled to lie about her age.

(I will leave a gap here, as I have an intimate narrative from Nanny about how she and Papa met, told in her own words.)

Once Papa reconciled with the fact that Nanny was only 16, they wed. Their union resulted in five children and a household filled with superstitions and spiritual beliefs that stemmed from Nanny's mysterious gypsy heritage. We were always cautioned to throw salt over our shoulders, never to leave our purses on the table, and to avoid walking under ladders. Breaking a mirror was practically a cardinal sin. If bad luck struck, Nanny had an array of rituals to ward it off. If your energy was off, she knew. She was known for having “eyes in the back of her head.”

Embracing Change: Redefining Privilege, Challenging Patriarchy, and Honouring My Grandparents' Legacy

Life has a way of revealing hidden truths and reshaping our perceptions. In my journey, I had the privilege of partly being raised and influenced by my grandparents who played significant roles in founding the patriarchy in Sarnia, Ontario. As the co-founder of the Sarnia Brigade, our city’s baseball association, my grandfather's experiences of travel and privilege opened my eyes to the stark realities faced by many in our community. In this personal blog, explore the complexities of privilege, the influence of the matriarchy, and the transformative power of speaking up and challenging patriarchal norms while honouring my grandparents' legacy.

Unveiling Privilege: Redefining Humility and Gratitude

Growing up, I always felt a sense of humility and believed that our family was poor. However, as I reflect on my grandparents' role in founding the patriarchy, their involvement in professional baseball and our lineage in the skilled trades union, I realize the extent of the privilege they bestowed upon us. The ability to travel and participate in events for the boys' baseball and hockey leagues revealed the stark disparities that exist within our community. This chapter delves into the complexities of privilege, redefining humility, and cultivating gratitude for the opportunities we were afforded.

The Guiding Presence: The Impact of My Grandparents' Upbringing

My grandparents not only played a significant role in founding the patriarchy but also partially raised me, my sister, and my cousin. In this chapter, explore their profound impact on shaping our upbringing and the invaluable gifts they bestowed upon us. Their love, wisdom, and guidance became the foundation upon which we built our lives. This chapter delves into the profound influence our grandparents had on our character formation and personal growth. Their presence in our lives not only shaped our perspective but also equipped us with the tools to navigate challenges and embrace change.

The Backbone of Strength: The Matriarchy Within Our Family

While my grandfather may have been the leader of the patriarchy, it was my grandmother who truly held our family together. This chapter, explores the profound influence of the matriarchy within our family, recognizing the strength, resilience, and unwavering support my grandmother provided. Her role as the backbone of our family showcases the power of women in shaping our lives and challenging patriarchal norms. I pay tribute to her legacy, highlighting her contributions to our family's well-being.

Challenging Patriarchy: Embracing a New Narrative

As I come to terms with my grandparents' role in founding the patriarchy, I am compelled to challenge its inherent biases and limitations. This chapter delves into my journey of speaking up, redefining societal norms, and advocating for a more equitable and inclusive community. I explore the transformative power of dismantling patriarchal structures, drawing inspiration from my grandparents' philanthropic endeavours and their desire to make a positive impact on the world.

Honouring Their Legacy: Embracing Change and Creating a Better Future

In this final chapter, reflect on the lessons learned from my grandparents and the importance of honouring their legacy. Their involvement in professional baseball and the founding of the patriarchy serve as reminders of the opportunities I have been granted. I embrace the responsibility to use my privilege to create a more just and inclusive society. This chapter explores my commitment to breaking the cycle of addiction within my family, offering support to my sister and cousin, and striving to be a beacon of hope for those who face similar struggles.

This personal blog intertwines the complexities of privilege, the influence of the matriarchy, and the transformative power of challenging patriarchal norms. It is a testament to the importance of redefining our perceptions of privilege and embracing the responsibility that comes with it. Through honouring my grandparents' legacy, I am driven to create a more equitable and inclusive future where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive. With their guiding spirit, I embark on a journey of change and advocacy, aiming to make a positive impact on the lives of others. In embracing change, challenging patriarchal structures, and honouring our roots, we have the power to create a better future for generations to come.

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