Fayette Woman Voices: Even from her birth in 1944, she was different. She was named Waynne. She grew up in post-WWII America with a stereotypical adolescence of milkshakes, poodle skirts, and jukeboxes. The dream was to find the lifelong love, to settle, to build a tasteful home with children, and to keep the picket fence gleamingly white. This perfectly peroxided blonde learned to cook, sew, manage bills, garden, and all of the suitable things that middle class baby boomettes embraced.
Then in the 70s, she was suddenly a single mom with a baby daughter. She savored the freedom from her toxic marriage and the opportunity to live life on her terms. She rejected the notion of instability or lack despite the fact that the picket fence was now chain link around a brick building. The tasteful home was now a second floor apartment with a window air conditioner and linoleum floors. Financial support was as absent as the ex. She worked, tailoring clothing or sewing gowns, running errands, detailing cars, bookkeeping for small businesses. She bought treasures at yard sales and resold them. She was Uber, Quicken, eBay, and Etsy…just before the dot-com. Her east-facing kitchen was sunny and hopeful, beautified by her handmade yellow curtains. Her home and her daughter were always meticulously and modestly clean. And without fail, her signature platinum blonde hair was perfectly styled.
With rent soaring and her daughter in high school, a series of coincidences led her to a full-time position as a girl Friday for a high-end printing company. Printing glossy advertisements, the likes of which graced the pages of Vogue magazine, was a huge business. She absolutely loved the creative process and the intricate skill it took print craftsman to create these images – all before computers. After decades of tradesmen and tradition, the printing industry was finally transitioning to digital, but her employer refused to evolve. With the writing clearly on the wall, the company would inevitably go under just about the same time her daughter was heading to a very expensive university, her rent was tripling, and her car just died for the 14th time. Yet the winds of change didn’t stir one blonde hair on her head.
Her own mother had joined the worldly chorus of “get another nine-to-five paycheck.” After all, this was the late 80s and corporate America was thriving. Women donned shoulder-padded blazers while chasing titles, benefits, and retirement plans equal to their male counterparts. But she knew this was not meant for her: “My ideas, my vision for my life was bigger than a cubicle.” She loved printing and she wasn’t about to start over on someone else’s terms. On one side was the road to her dream, on the other side was the road to the dollar. She knew prosperity could be found on either path, so she chose the path toward the dream. Bills are constant – rent, utilities, tuition, and that car payment. But this survivor’s blonde instinct and her determination led her to pursue freedom. She began actively selling printing before she even had any equipment to produce it on. Yet coincidentally, one of her former printer colleagues bought a small printing press and was seeking someone who would bring him work. Within weeks, this dynamic duo with a few thousand dollars between them began a company known as “Totalgraphics.” It was a humble beginning in the tiniest of storefronts. Yet in less than 10 years, and with a ridiculous amount of work, their company grew to a multi-million dollar printing company with both owners being highly respected and praised for their entrepreneurial spirit, achievement, and award-winning printing on million dollar presses.
Now that I am in my 40s, and having entertained the responsible single mom role for a while, I had a ton of questions for her: “How on earth did you have the courage to do this knowing that you were responsible for a child? Did you have at least six months of savings? How did you pay your rent on top of taking a car payment you didn’t need? Why didn’t you just get another stable paycheck with all that you were facing?” She told me, “These things are not insurmountable. It’s all in the way you think. You just style your hair and go for it.” What she lacked in savings (none), she sure made up for in guts. “You step forward with assurance, not arrogance, and just be free. But you must know the difference between getting something for free and pursuing your freedom. The latter is the ability to make your own life, to control your own destiny, and to enjoy those rewards. Success for me was out there, so I had to get out there.” She added, “It never felt like work because I was so wondrously fueled by possibility.”
This is a story I know so well because I am the baby girl in this story. I watched my beautiful blonde mother define freedom and write her amazing story. She worked seasons of 18-20 hour days, yet not one blonde hair was ever out of place. And if there is one thing I know about my mother, this woman has never allowed the world to define who she is, not even her hair color. Her final encouragement: “Let absolutely nothing limit your passion or potential for prosperity. Just be you, be free, and you’ll find success.”