Vying for Space

by | Jun 27, 2014 | Memoir, Relationships | 3 comments

Here’s a mini memoir I contributed to The Sitting Room‘s 2014 publication, This Is What a Feminist Looks Like. The question writers were asked to address was, When did you first realize you were a feminist?

Vying for Space
by Laura McHale Holland

Kathy, Mary Ruth and I unwrap Bazooka in the back seat while our father starts up the Ford Galaxy. Feeling lucky that I, the youngest in the family, landed the coveted window spot on the driver’s side, I pop an entire rectangle of gum in my mouth, chomp down, and relish a burst of flavor.

4430261585_20417251dc_z“Give me your wrappers, girls.” Our stepmother cranes backward and extends her arm, palm up.

We crumple the wax papers and drop them one, two, three into her hand. She faces for-ward again. Our father backs down the drive. Excited at the prospect of seeing our grandmother soon, my sisters and I fidget, elbow each other and kick the back of the front seat.

“Stop that!” our father roars. He brakes; we all lurch forward. “Sit still, or you’re going right back in the house. No visiting Gramma today. I’ll count to three: one, two … three.”

We do our best to settle down, careful not to bump each other and set off a fight.
Our father resumes backing out just as our neighbors pull into their driveway. All four family members sit like mannequins in their respective places: father driving, son in front passenger seat, mother and daughter in back.

“That’s creepy—males in front, females in back,” Kathy says.

“They’re so weird,” Mary Ruth says. I bounce up and down in agreement.

“He’s got the right idea, girls,” my father says, catching my eye in the rearview mirror. “You’d just better hope my lovely wife doesn’t have a son someday. She might have to ride in back with you.” He pulls into the street, changes gears and accelerates.

I wince at the thought of a wiggling, squalling male heir in the front next to my father, and a full-grown woman vying for space in back with my sisters and me.

“That’s not funny, Daddy,” Mary Ruth says.

“It wasn’t meant to be.” He chortles, head thrown back.

We three sisters chew our gum in silence. The car crunches over gravel and hits a pot-hole. I kick the front seat right at the small of my father’s back. I kick hard enough to disturb him, but not so hard he won’t conclude the seat was just jostled by the bumpy road.


Are you a feminist?

(Photo is by Christopher Sessums and used under Creative Commons attribution license. My father’s Galaxy was white and a couple years older than the one pictured.)

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  1. Barbara Toboni

    Love it! Sounds like a good subject for memoir writing. And you did a grand job. I could see the three of you and taste that bubble gum. Might have to go buy some.

  2. admin

    Thanks, Barbara. I appreciate your supportive feedback. I might have to buy some, too. It’s been years since I’ve tasted good old Bazooka.

  3. Susan Brien

    Long time no talk, right, my friend? I have a pretty good reason!!

    Okay, I am a female, so I’m probably considered “feminine” with or without all the parts. My sisters always called me a “tomboy” as if that was a curse. (I think they were jealous because I was always with boys. They’d call me – even the ones they liked!) So, the general word applies to the gender of “me”, but I don’t feel I relate well with the “ist” issue. Wonder why. I think part of it is I’ve never had a thing denied me because I am a woman. I’ve never bought into the entire issue. Some people would raise an eyebrow if they knew my take on Title IX. Oh my. : ) Call me. HUGS.


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