At 4:20 this morning I am missing my mom and my sisters. Our family Christmas eve dinner and phone calls whisked by too fast, and our annual McNamee Girls shopping trip to the city was also over too soon.
Pictures flash through my mind’s eye; Maureen with a big bag of recently discovered extra presents from last year for me and Allan… Hawaiian shirts that look fabulous on him, and two coats that are too big for me and too small for him that I give to his mother and new boyfriend who happen to be a perfect fit; A pepper colored faux fur hat with matching pepper colored faux fur gloves that Eileen was wearing when we picked her up at the airport… she suggested we trade so she could wear the black faux fur hat I had on which matched her black undergloves and traveling black jacket better; My own poems mounted in glass frames by Terese, reflecting to me that she was moved by “Memorial Day at the Beach” and “The Vietnam War Memorial.” A big box of second hand clothes for nine month old Lorelie Joy which I give to her mom, Kristen, the two newest members of our family.
In the picture I keep of our mom at my desk, she is a beautiful child, serene and elegant at the age of seven. She looks out from our eyes and her grandchildren now, watching each of us grow and go into the strange new world that emerged since her spirit left her body 25 years ago. I remember spending her birthday last year with the pictures I took when Terese and Madeline and Claire and I went to sing songs on her birthday at her final resting place. So many tears when she passed so young, yet all of us still feel her warmth, and the depth of her love of our family.
I am waking from a dream of a day in my twenties, and seeing my young self so blessed, so loved, and so incapable of knowing or receiving it. I am standing in an empty tennis court awaiting a partner who never showed up. The weather is misty but warm, and after hitting the ball on a wall for an hour, I decided to take a nap on the grass, not sure if I was mistaken about the time for my appointment.
In a canopied courtyard nearby, people begin to set up chairs in a circle, and a microphone with speakers. Soon a few dozen people arrive and take the chairs. Philippino families gather on a Saturday afternoon. As I eavesdrop from above, they begin to pass the mic from person to person for a very interesting conversation. The first speaker is a woman who poses the question they all will discuss, how would the family feel if one of their daughters became pregnant? Each person who took the microphone said roughly the same thing. “If my daughter was pregnant, of course I would love her and her baby, but I hope that she would not get pregnant until she was all grown up and married.” Each one told a little story about why that would be better, for the girl, for her child, for her family. Everyone chimed in, grandparents, brothers, sisters, young children, although more silent were the young women and men who might be very interested in dating each other and having sex.
At the time I didn’t notice that they only spoke of the daughters. Though a few young men were present, in this Catholic culture the women were the intended audience, instructed wisely and lovingly by their families not to have sex until they were married. No similar message was aimed at the men. The subtleties of the sexism were lost on me at the time.
At the time, I didn’t notice that a beautiful woman entirely made of light stood over my shoulder as I lingered on the edge of sleep. She seemed to be listening, seemed to be watching. Possibly she was quietly hoping that in some mysterious way I would take a hint from the events I witnessed. Perhaps I could avoid some unnecessary pain. The subtleties of the lessons were lost on me at the time.
It was in that shadowy year that I was having sex without marriage, and did not know that if I became pregnant, my family would still love me. I did not believe in marriage, ever since my own parent’s divorce. I did not expect love to last, or promises to be kept, or men to do the right thing. Mine was the “love the one you’re with” and “when you see your chance, take it, find romance” generation. I inhereted a world of protesters claiming the virtues of independance over commitment, free love over family, and sin free greed as the guilt free career path to success. All those childhood years of church and school teaching honesty and forgiveness wasted in a world that stopped valuing genuine innocence, fairness, and an emotional heart.
Back then, my disappointed heart became confused, contracted, blocked, and small. The world matched my point of view, and landed me in many situations showing me the loveless side of reality (which I learned interpenetrates the loveFULL sides of reality). Birth control and career equality translated in my life into abandonment of mothers and their children. Not trusting men to be trustworthy in the years before the idea of a “latchkey” generation was coined, I believed I would choose to be a single mom at some distant date in the future after achieving my independence with a successful career. I would live in a group house with other such moms so the kids would have a good family life which a career girl like me could afford. No reason not to have sex. Although I lived after that in San Francisco until I met my husband, I was lucky and loving enough to avoid aids by confining my promiscuity to a wonderful experiment in group marriage.
I did not know at that young age how strongly parents love their children. I did not know then what I still suspect, that having children and family is the most valuable love a person can know. In that time, I thought I was on my own. It took another decade before I began to understand that the anger and abandonment in me was causing unnecessary suffering. And it took another decade of testing my priorities, beliefs, and values on the solid love of my precious husband before I got back on the path of my true heart.
What I saw so clearly in today’s waking morning was something I never noticed before. The love which I so longed for was always there for me in so many ways. I can feel it now, but I could not feel it then. This story is just one among many of miracles and angelic guidance to profound experiences, out of the blue, even though I hardly noticed. I couldn’t see it until I was ready to believe. I couldn’t receive it until I understood something simple that I really didn’t know. The love was meant for me. Although the world of my time got everything wrong and rather backwards, i believe I can now put faith in the future.
No one can know their destiny until the moment it happens. And it happens all the time. The world is only partially outside the self, and really it is a grand and elegant dance to see which aspects of potential will get to play on stage during life. In the mists of memory that linger after all the great and small moments have passed, the story is revealed in the love that remains. Is there more than before? Then it seems we chose wisely and well.