By Marjorie George
in the middle bedroom – the room off the hall where the grandkids slept when they came to visit that is now the repository of stuff I’m not ready to dispose of but don’t know where to put – in that dusty room there is an old creaky-doored cupboard. And in the cupboard are seven vintage photos of seven older women. Some of the photos are sepia toned, others faded black and white. None are in color, of course, for that medium was before their time. One or two are on tintype.
I call them the grandmothers. They are photos of my mother and her mother and her mother. I have only actually met two of these women in person – my mom and her mom. But I have stories. They are all stern-faced women of hardy stock. I look at them and say, “I don’t know you but you know me. Because of you, I am.”
Cora, my maternal grandmother, was deserted by her husband when the youngest of her four girls was 12 years old. The full story of how and why never came to me. We didn’t talk about such things in those days. We just frowned. But I recall my father saying once, “Still, she was a good sport.” If the clan was going bowling, she would say, “Wait, I’ll get my hat.” And off she went.
I have the pocket watch her father gave her when she graduated high school in the late 1800s. I guard it proudly as if it were my own personal accomplishment. One day it will go to my daughter and then to her daughter.
Julia, Cora’s mother, looks up at me from a fancy-schmancy wooden frame. No smile, hair up in a bun, pearls neatly placed against a buttoned-up-to-the-neck dress. What was your life like? I ask her. But she won’t say: it’s likely too hard a story to tell.
Then there is Aunt Daisy, my absent grandfather’s sister for whom my mother was named. Daisy was a looker. In her photo she wears a stylish chapeau, a fur boa wrapped around her suit-dress. Mom used to scowl when she mentioned Aunt Daisy. Daisy never married but had a years-long affair with a married man. She died young from a thyroid disease, my mother would say with a slight note of satisfaction.
But before my mother, Before Cora, before Julia and Aunt Daisy, there were others – Our grandmothers in the faith. There was Eve, who wondered about that apple and is still asking, “What the hell just happened?” And Mrs. Noah and all that rain. And Bathsheba – was she victim or seductress?
What are their stories? We must conjecture much, relying on the scripture we have and the learnings of scholars after the fact. We know some things, but we don’t know everything. No one ever asked the women how they felt or what choices were and were not theirs. We will assume that what scripture tells us is accurate and remember that from the beginning of time, women’s lives have shaped their families, including us.
During the four weeks of Advent, we will look at five biblical women to see what their lives can tell us about our lives. And in connection with the Communion of Saints, we will invite these women to guide us in our discoveries with the help of God’s timeless spirit.
Return to all readings for Toward Incarnation – Advent 2021.