International Women’s Day: Remembering Liz Patterson

Jennie

When I was a girl, I thought of Liz Patterson as this cool woman in my church with a long dark ponytail.

She and Dwight were MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) leaders, and I couldn’t wait to get to 7th grade and be a part of their group. I was so excited to go to my first youth pool party at their house on Old Whitney Road. But then was crushed when they told us they were stepping down! Their young family was growing and Liz was entering politics as the first woman on the Spartanburg County Council.

I thought my “inside track” to the cool young mom at Central UMC was shattered. Boy, was I wrong!

Shortly after that pool party Liz called me and asked if I could babysit.  And from that very moment, Liz’s magic started rubbing off on me.  

Liz may not have realized it, but much of what she blessed me with was unspoken. She helped me gain self-confidence and leadership skills, because from the time I was 13 years old, she trusted me with her most valuable possessions… her little boys.  

Two years into my “babysitting adventures” with Olin and Pat, we were blessed with the addition of baby Catherine. Those three Patterson kids were like family to me. It is impossible to recount the hilarious escapades, the beach trips, birthday parties, OLIN, homework assignments, back-scratching and bedtime stories.  It was simply, love.

Before Liz decided to run for State Senate, she asked me to meet with her. She wanted to make sure I could cover childcare the 3 days a week she would be in Columbia during session. Liz had to have the peace of mind of knowing that her children would be cared for, and carpooled, by our “network” of sitters at the time: Amy, Ann, Steve and Tim…  before she threw herself into her campaign. (And as we went away to college, other capable teens became part of the Patterson peer patrol!)

Liz juggled her family, her career, her church work, and her community involvement with passion. Her energy was endless. She never wasted time; and as busy as she was, she always made time to listen to others. I would hear her talk to constituents on the phone, or at town halls, and she made people feel worthy because she had time for them.

Liz was a trailblazer. She became the first woman elected to represent South Carolina in the US House of Representatives. She had friends on both sides of the aisle. She was an independent woman who had fabulous opportunities around the world, but her most important work was raising her family.  She showed me that a woman could be strong and do anything a man could do- and that being married didn’t mean you were a conformist! You could fight for women’s rights yet still enjoy the most traditional of women’s roles. Like sewing. Liz’s sewing machine was always within reach! 

Our families’ lives have been intertwined over the decades. We celebrated Montgomery graduations, weddings, and babies…  then Patterson graduations, weddings and babies! My three “Patterson babies” babysat for MY babies. Patpatterson is a beloved fixture in my children’s lives… and my children are now 23, 24 & 26 (26 as of today, 3/8 Happy Birthday, Zack!

I had a wonderful visit with Liz in October, just a few weeks before she died. I was able to tell her that I loved her, how she helped shape the woman I am today, and that I had learned so much from her. I thank God for the time we had that day, and for the opportunity to tell her the things that were on my heart.

The necklace I’m wearing in this picture belonged to Liz. Her children gave it to me on my birthday in January. It means so much to me because I actually told a story about a spider when I gave the eulogy at my father’s funeral many years ago. You see, as a spirit animal, the spider represents strength and gentleness combined: “She reminds you that the past is always interwoven with the future, that you are an infinite being who will continue to weave patterns of life and living throughout time.”

Liz may have left us, but she wove beautiful patterns in so many lives. How lucky I feel to have had her weave one in mine.
 

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