Picture: My sister, Gail with Lukas, Alexis (daughter), Lily (age 9), me, Emmy (age 5) and Manuela (daughter-in-law), and Kaiya (age 2 and a half)at the beach on Mother’s Day
Carl Jung believed that, as we get more mature, we are able to identify with more and more of humanity, with the planet and, ultimately, with the Universe. We have stronger feelings of being connected to everything. I think I’m finding this to be true. This month, it includes feeling more and more connected to my Mother who died in 2001. It hit me a couple of mornings ago, watching myself put on make-up in the bathroom mirror. I suddenly though of all the times that I stood in the doorway of her bathroom, watching her put her make-up on in the morning and take it off at night. Last weekend, my granddaughters stood around and watched me get made up in the morning.
My Mother would say things like “Never wash your face with soap,” as she rubbed Lady Esther cold cream, swiped from the jar with two fingers, on to her face and began scrubbing it off again with Kleenex. “And put lotion on your whole body every day,” she’d say as she pulled the bottle of Jergen’s Cherry Blossom Body Lotion from under the sink. She went to bed with cream on her face and lotion all over her body every night. She always took a shower at night. So do I. We learned to get into bed clean. A shower in the morning is a nightmare in my book.
That feeling of connectedness is sweet. I felt it again the other night as we watched a program on CNN called “Jesus: Fact and Fantasy.” Each show begins with a recent archeological find and pulls back to the political and economic situation of the time and then zooms in again on the details of living every day.
Apparently, they have recently found a site where they believe Joseph and Mary lived when Jesus was a boy. The narrator casts Joseph as a successful artisan, who had a nice home (several bedrooms) and would have had disposable income (modern terms seem so odd in this context). Mary would have had some jewelry (glass beads, twine, shells). Mary was probably a spinner—an artisan herself, he notes. She probably owned some cosmetics—kohl around her eyes and something to pink up her cheeks. I suddenly felt like Mary could be the woman next door. The narrator speculated that she would have read the Torah to Jesus. He noted it was the responsibility of a Jewish woman to school her children in the Tanakh, the traditional texts of the Jews. Now, this point is disputed and one of my friends has argued that she was, most probably, illiterate. Nonetheless, being in charge of Jesus must have been a challenge, what with him running around arguing with the rabbi and so on.
It came to me that I felt connected to all women, back to Eve with her fig leaf, flowers in her hair or an African woman with rings in her ears and her nose. Cleopatra with kohl around her eyes. Women have been painting their faces (as my mother would have called it) and teaching their children since the beginning of time. It feels like these daily rituals are the ones that trigger that connected feeling. Funny how small actions link us to the largest feelings. Jung argued that we connect with the ancient archetypes of human race—Eve (mother), Cleopatra (warrior), Spider Grandmother (fire carrier for some native people), Empress, Crone, Sage.
In those moments of connectedness, I am filled with a sweet calm that is rare in this bustling house with friends and children and grandchildren. It’s a floaty feeling, a little nostalgic, maybe, certainly a faint longing. You can notice your breath go off into the universe. The Yogis tell us to breathe out compassion. Sounds like a good plan to me.
Here is a poem for Mother’s Day that I wrote maybe 30 years ago:
They take the last pickle in the jar,
drain cartons late at night and leave
juice on the window sills where
I can’t see it until it sticks to the glass.
Also, I have no juice in the morning.
They start stealing real small,
pens and pencils, working up to
five and tens, not to mention
twenty-five years from the middle of my
grown-up life including one track
of my mind even when I am supposed
to have a weekend to myself.
I hate them because they don’t know
how much better it is to have me for a mother
than my mother. They can’t imagine life
without Palm Springs or MTV, because
they don’t pull weeds or wash windows,
because I would rather die myself,
because I won’t ever know how it
would have been without them.