Authentic Eagles: On Femininity

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our struggles in the constant quest to appear perfect. Embracing our  truths can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials and tribulations of being one’s authentic self at BC.

Jenna Denice, A&S '14

I believe in the gritty dirt underneath my fingernails.

A 5:30 a.m. wake-up during the summer mornings meant I would roll out of bed and fumble my way into the “shagging-wagon;” my father’s 1980s-styled wooden-paneled minivan, the inside fuming with the sweet mixture of gasoline and Dunkin' Donuts coffee.  We’d head out into the foggy morning and hit the bay to get set up for our day out on the water.

Over the years, it eventually came to the point where I knew exactly what to do on those early mornings; I’d set up the sorting station; four buckets for four different sized clams, alongside the grate to measure out and separate the right sizes. I would pull the “waterproof,” rusty radio with the broken antenna out from its resting place and turn to help my father get started.

As he methodically and rhythmically began to rake the quahogs out from the mucky bottom of the Narragansett Bay, I would rest upon the bow, scanning the water for seagulls and soaking up the sun, closing my eyes and occasionally drifting off into a quick daydream.

After several moments the gentle rocking of the boat would come to a halt, soon followed by the climactic moment of the 40-foot pole seemingly skyrocketing out of the water under my father’s immense firefighter strength. He would then empty out the hodge-podge contents of the rake into my station. It was now my turn to get my hands dirty. Quahogs of all shapes and sizes, creatures of the water, grit and trash would spew out, and I would dig right in.

The gentle breeze, the subtle smell of salt water and the warmth of the sun during those early mornings, coupled with the cool jams of Lite Rock 105 spilling out Eagle’s classics and the occasional glance over by my father -- These were the moments I found myself learning what it meant to truly enjoy your work.

I now know nothing is better than enjoying the fruit of your labor, or in my case, the fruit of the sea. Even now, as a young woman with nails decorated with pink nail polish, (slightly) removed from my tomboy era, I find myself thinking about those mornings out on the boat. The taste of those quahogs, the smell of the bay and the dirt under my nails will forever remind me of my father and the work ethic and strength I have been so blessed to gain from him.

I believe in the delicate, soothing back scratching of my mother’s pristinely kept nails.

In any occasion, whether I’m sad, stressed, sleepy, bored or just in the mood to be with my mom, I can rely on her uncontested agreement to scratch my back. While some may equate my actions to a cat, there is nothing I would rather do when I get home from school than curl up with my mom on our plush plum leather couches in the living room.

To her, it doesn’t matter that I am now twenty-one, soon to be living on my own and almost physically double her size, nor did it matter when I was her five-year-old tomboy baby girl who could comfortably lay on her like our five-pound cat Spicey. Consumed by her unconditional love, I fall into her lap with the complete and utter satisfaction knowing her immaculate nails will circle around me, marking me with the outlines of her love and affection.

My mother has always been someone I have admired and aspired to be. She makes everything seem so effortless, yet she has sacrificed so much for so many, specifically for our family. She is everywhere: plays, games, recitals, honors ceremonies, and she has never missed a second of it all.

And yet, she has always been a workingwoman, straight out of college. By day she is a dental hygienist; her latex-covered hands sweep through the mouths of her patients, clearing any muck or gunk to keep them healthy. By night, she is with me, with her smooth, motherly hands stroking my back and arms, clearing away any stress, sadness or anxiety, and in its place, covering me with boundless love and comfort.

Laying in her arms late at night, staring up at her, I find myself lost for words about how lucky I am. I want her to swallow me up in her arms; I want to soak in the smell of her Chanel perfume and the nourishing touch of her skin.

Now I find myself sneaking into her bedroom, like the little girl I once was, before I head back to BC, scooping up her perfume and spraying it on my clothes in an attempt to find comfort in her absence and my time away from home. A mother’s touch is unparalleled, and I hope to one day echo the amount of love she has shown me to my own children. But I still know, I will forever be her baby girl.

As I think about the future that lies ahead, I know I will forever be engrained in the past. I am the product of the beautiful harmony that is my parents. The two of them have so subtly shaped the way I view myself as an independent young woman. They have taught me what is worth fighting for, what is worth the bruises, the sweat and the dirt. And all the while, I have learned how to remain true to myself. They have given me the world and now I find myself eager to reciprocate all they have given me back into the lives of those who I love.

I believe in family. I believe in a deeply rooted work ethic. I believe in unconditional love.

I believe in the dirt resting under my nails masked in the disguise of delicate pink nail polish.

This I believe.

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