Sunday, May 9, 2010
Sister, mother, mother, sister
May recovers from the deranged meteorological ups and and downs of March, and prepares to leave behind the bright crystal blue skies and simple beauties of April in its determined progess to summer. The first few days of this May have been marked by stunning heat, but today has been a a lovely gift. The wind shifted around to the north, the heat eased and the humidity dropped. And the roses are blooming.
Rodney's mother, Helen, started this cutting from a thriving rose more than 40 years ago and cuttings came with us when we moved here. I'm not sure it's a true Seven Sisters rose, but we've always called it so, and certainly the small clusters of bright hopeful pink resemble close families of sisters. Although Helen died when Rodney was 17, she seems alive to us every year when the unfailing benediction of the tiny rosebuds lights our eyes and wakens our hearts. We have shared it with many of the dear sisters of my own heart, whose walls and fences and sunny spots now have their own clusters of pink roses to mark the arrival of May. My mother, Cecilia, died when I was 11, but she would have loved the marking of the changing seasons with a hearty, winter-safe rose. It would have comforted her as did the certainty of the liturgical calendar, the unending circle of routine and ritual. She would have loved, as Helen must have, the sweet blessing of the tiny roses that seem to commemorate Mother's Day each spring.
I have a silly mental image of my childrens' grandmothers, relaxing together and peering down from their shared celestial perch, watching with joy or dismay or encouragement according to the situation. My friend Tracy's mother, Jean, must surely be sitting with them, in this image, all of them smoking cigarettes and possibly drinking a beer. Perhaps Jean Herron, mother of our dear Lis, sits nearby with her sister Joanie, fondly observing the circle of sisterhood that sustains us all.
Without our mothers, Helen and Cecilia, to help me bumble through childrearing, I found my way as a mother through sisterhood. It was the sisters who walked the path ahead of me whose signs and markers and joys and heartbreaks helped me find my own way. Without Diana's peaceful reminders in babyhood, Sue's middle school years and Lis's endless encouragement as the nest is left, without Lorie's almost unspoken reminder of the wonder of both children, it is impossible to imagine how I'd have figured it out. And there are so many others, my loves; too many to name in this small space, but each bringing a unique gift. Each of them has given me a map, drawn with painstaking care, mysterious and beautiful as those made of the bravery and imagination of 16th century cartographers and illuminators. Each of these sisters of my heart has helped to light the way for me in more ways that I can tell you here. Each has made me a better mother.
If you are a daughter or a mother, and especially if you are a sister who has helped mark the way for one who does not have her own mother as a guide, may every blessing be on you this Mother's Day.