Weeks ago, Ariadna and I were challenged – the American Women’s Club of Antwerp’s 92nd anniversary – our Founders’ Day celebration – was looming in the distance. How were we to celebrate this year, during COVID? With restaurants shuttered and socially distant mandates, we knew, this would be like no other Founders’ Day celebration.
But like so many events this past year, we were not alone in our confusion. We turned, instead, to the inspiration that zoomed across the world a few weeks ago. The inauguration of President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and the subsequent virtual Celebrating America hosted by Tom Hanks held the keys to our foundation. Music, poetry, speeches – inspiring stories and heartfelt emotions – lifted each viewer from their homes and collectively encouraged a country and the world.
This morning’s event was just as emotional, reassuring, and positive. My small part, the poem below, was inspired by Amanda Gorman’s poem, The Hill We Climb – which captivated hearts around the world. Adapted for our tiny corner of the globe, I enjoyed writing and reciting in her style. She is a truly inspirational young woman and I’m looking forward to what the next few years will bring – to our club, our country, and the world.
The Ties that Bind
(Inspired by The Hill We Climb – by Amanda Gorman)
When Founders’ Day comes we ask ourselves
what does the American Women’s Club of Antwerp mean to us?
The women we treasure and the ties that bind us,
are ideas to discuss –
We’ve learned that friends are not just. . . friends
The love that runs, within our club
borders closer to the love of sisters
or angels who protect, from above.
On this special anniversary,
We nod to the women,
who forged a path since 1929,
those women pioneers, left family, friends, and country behind
As we all did . . .
accepted a life, to start anew,
in a land far from home,
but they needed support – oh yes, yes, this they knew
On the 14th of February, on a freezing cold day,
Ice strangled the Scheldt.
Forty women gathered, under skies of light grey,
to establish what we’d know as the AWCA
And for decades these women – laid the foundation
And built an organization
to help one another,
bold women who hold the instinct to mother. . .
And with their philanthropic hearts beating hard in their chests,
They supported children, women, and victims of breast. . .
Times have changed,
But yet, throughout the decades
The women never stopped giving,
Improving standard of living –
For abandoned children and women fleeing from trafficking,
Helping women in Africa,
Our club helps right the wrong of what’s happening
But helping others means empowering their own,
Within the club, women have grown
We are the successors of a club
Where a former-accountant turned full-time mom,
never dreamed of becoming President
Only to find herself seated here before you.
As a President, a board, and a club, we are far from perfect,
For precision is not the purpose.
Thoughts, ideas, and disagreements, individually promoted
but that doesn’t mean we are not collectively devoted.
We are striving to compose a club
committed to supporting each other and women of all cultures, colors, and circumstances.
Today, marks a year. . .
A year ago, we lived without fear,
We all embraced at the 91st Founders’ Day
With our glasses held high, we toasted and cheered
The room swelled with laughter, a few happy tears.
We’ve learned that luncheons and gatherings
Will never again be taken for granted.
On our 92nd anniversary,
In the time that is COVID
When the world feels cold, alone, and loaded
with fear and uncertainty
we women march forward. Devoted.
We’ve been tested,
A social club
That is socially distant.
And yet the time is ours
Before we knew it.
Somehow we’d do it.
Somehow we’ve gathered and watched
A club that’s surviving,
Nay, a club that is thriving,
Making the most of the time, we are biding
Until the moment we can embrace again – smiling.
Let us remember, at the very least, Anniversary number 92,
That even as we zoomed, we grew.
That even as we wondered, we knew,
That even as we tired, we stayed true.
True to ideals, the purpose, the plans
Connecting and supporting with virtual hands
Today, we turn our eyes onto the past
The future will turn its eye on us.
History will pass,
We held steadfast.
For we’re reminded of the 1930 motto,
Never hasty in judgment and always generous
For we know, that everyone of us,
Is awaiting the day for us to return,
to meetings, and gatherings – free from concern . . .
For when that day comes,
We will parade from the suburbs under green arches of trees,
We will parade from the cobbles of the city.
We will parade from the Netherlands, cross the border with glee
We will parade from the gridlock of the. . . E-19.
We will reconnect, restore, and recover.
Every woman in the club, will remember
Our club – beautiful and diverse, for we are its members.
The tie that binds us, is an unbreakable love
And time will heal it,
If we feel it.