Catholic Grandma was born in 1920. Emily was her name. She was Catholic all her life. She married a virgin, and in the fear of the Lord. She married a good Catholic man (not as good as her, of course; they never are; but good as men go, nevertheless…) , and gave birth to children she did her best to grow in the Catholic faith. One of them, Mary.
Mary was born in 1950, as the US were the powerhouse of the planet. She grew up in a society whose wealth her mother could – as a young girl with the fear of the Lord, and dreaming of a husband and children, of a small house with a yard and a good kitchen – not even have imagined. Mary also had the opportunity – thank to the hard work of their parents, and the sacrifices they gladly did for their offspring – to reach a level of education unknown to the generation of her parents, and grandparents.
Mary grew smart, and a tad opinionated. She thought she had all the answers. Whilst she “felt” Catholic, she thought she could “question” Catholicism. She thought she knew more about the world than her parents, so much below her in their level of education and accomplishment. She liked her mother’s “simple faith”, but she considered it just that: simple. Good for the uneducated. Inadequate for a world of new frontiers.
When the “Summer of love” came, it swept the young girl away.
Mary never really planned of marrying intact. She married her fifth lover, and never once regretted giving herself away for “love”. “Fornication” was, to her, an old-fashioned term, but she certainly did not want to be reputed a slut. She slowly stopped going to confession more than once a year. At some point, she stopped taking more and more excuses to stop attending, but she never really gave up. Contraception was a given, because a pregnancy had absolutely to be avoided before marriage, and before her career was established; and two children were more than enough after it. Medical school is very expensive, you see, and she wanted at least one of her sons to be a doctor; plus a good house in a good neighbourhood. For the children. Plus a nice car, and holidays abroad. To open their children’s minds.
Mary’s daughter was born in 1985, the second and last born. She did not receive a traditional Christian name, and was called “Moon” instead. But she was baptised, both because mama was in the church group and because Grandma insisted so much on it. Still, mama told young Moon that this wasn’t important, and that “love is everything”. Moon was encouraged to “follow her heart”, and “live her dreams”. When, at 17, she left home to go away with a biker her parents were disappointed, but they called it a “phase”. No doubt, daughter would come out right in the end, because she “is a good girl” and “has her heart in the right place”. Back came the girl, and to high school again. But the procession of boys was already alarming. Grandma never openly said she is a slut, but Mary knew what her mother thought. When Moon went to college, there was no scarcity of willing Suns; actually, a lot of them; with some other Moons thrown in as “experiment”. Drunkenness became a not-so-rare occurrence, as did marijuana. This is when “slut” became a “sexist” term, though she referred to herself as “sexual”, and “liberated”. Her parents noticed, when she came back during the holidays, that she was talking in a new and strange way: of oppression, and liberation, and change, and hope. But she was following her heart, you see. The parents talked with their friends of “poor choices”, but they weren’t very keen on “judging”. It will all be good in the end. She is “a good girl after all”, they said to themselves.
Lover number 37 (but she was never sure she had counted all those she had gone with whilst drunk; probably not; they don’t count, anyway…) is, then, deemed to be “Mr Right”, and a marriage is hastily organised, then the heart must be followed whilst it throbs, and there is a bun in the oven. A civil one, of course, than her husband – an avowed atheist, but with “his heart int he right place” – hates conventions and moralism. But Las Vegas will do, as you can make a short holiday of it. Her husband, Deshawn, is about to become a sociology major; he is a social justice activist, hoping to become a community organiser. They will, of course, have to rely on the support of Moon’s parents for, oh well… for as long as it takes for the couple to “realise their dreams” and “make a difference”, of course…
The parents have encouraged her to “follow her heart”; so there it is, her heart, demanding to be followed. Silently, they had hoped for a lawyer, banker, doctor, or accountant. Someone, in any event, with a solid income, a solid character, and ready to start a family. A provider, and a man. At the very least someone without tattoos and baggy pants; but Deshawn happens to be Black, so they can’t say anything at all. Deshawn also speaks and moves in a strange way, but Moon finds it so “cute”, and they keep saying to themselves: “who are we to judge?”
Moon talks an awful lot of “White privilege” now, which is the main reason why Deshawn is, basically, never responsible for anything; her parents sometimes remember with some fondness when they complained about the biker. Deshawn is rather dominant, though. A smart guy, no doubt. They see he might have the stuff of a leader, and is probably in a “phase”, too. And then the underprivileged background, you see… So he smokes pot, but who are they to judge him or… their daughter? She seems comfortable with a firm guide. He will be a good guide for her, they think? Uh?
A daughter is born in 2007, when Moon has not yet finished her gender studies in college. The baby does not receive a Christian name. She is called ShoShana, with the double capital letter. Moon is always angry whenever “ShoShana” is not written the proper way, and keeps saying the proper pronounciation of her daughter’s name is with “shana” as in “Ghana”, not “shawna”, or – even worse – with “a” as in “care” or “dare”. Her parents think of the good old days; when you still knew what a name meant, and how it was pronounced.
ShoShana is, of course, not baptised, then this goes against the secular principles in the family. “We believe in love”, Moon says to Mary. Old Emily has, at this point, already gone to her reward, so she cannot say anything. Mary says to Moon: “I would have preferred it if the child had been baptised, you know how much your grandmother would have liked it! But I am sure what you do is for the best, and I will give you my full emotional support whatever you two decide to do!”. She will, of course, take the eyes away of every woman who, in her church groups/committees/charitable thingies, dares to ask anything about it. Stupid, uncharitable effs. Who are they to judge? God loves everyone, anyway…
So we arrive to the present day. Several years have gone by, and Moon is now alarmingly overweight. Mary does not dare to say anything to a daughter now railing against “fatphobia” all the time. Deshawn was found out in a fling with a fellow student, and told her he must “follow his heart” and “make his dreams come true” (and how could she say “no”?), so he was gone before you can say “social justice”. This is when she started piling on the ice cream. She has also moved back to her mother, so that ShoShana can be better taken care of. Which basically means Mary does everything.
Mary has noticed, though, that the newfound “fullness” (she never says “my daughter is obese”, preferring to use terms like “round” or “molly” instead) does not deter Moon from finding men able and willing to dump their semen inside her for a night. But they are different men now. Fat or very fat themselves, slovenly, unambitious, whining, or otherwise slow-witted. None of them interested in more than a semen dump. Mary sees very well that clearly, no quality or at least acceptable man goes near her once witty, attractive daughter now. An observing woman as all mothers, she notices how transparent her daughter is to every halfway decent man on the street, on the train, in the supermarket. She is filled with untold sorrow, as her daughter now constantly rants about the world, and sits on the couch, and hates men who do not love her “for herself”. Selfish bastards.
A cat, “Hillary”, is now a permanent part of the fixture. Hillary is obese, too; and like them, sheis quite the… bitch.
Deshawn wasn’t seen with his daughter in the last eighteen months, but he has now a job as a community organiser. He is very skilled with words, and knows how to manipulate his people. Some predict a brilliant future as a local politician for him, because the party likes his verbal skills, passion, and obedience to his superiors. He is currently being groomed to become a member of the County Council first; then, the state parliament is a possibility. Who knows what can happen after that.
The broken family is a minor bump, but the party is not judging him for that. In fact, it allows him to connect more with his electorate. He is one of them, you know. And leaving your daughter is not frowned upon nowadays. Not at all. Hey, nowadays when you are half-black with an absentee Black father, and raised by Whites all the time, you can become President profiling yourself as “Black” even if you have been raised exclusively by Whites, and your black papa put in the equation little more than his sperm. But this is not what matters. “Black” is the word that matters. Everyone knows it, but no one says it. It would be racist, you know.
Mary is now increasingly more sad. For years she has been a member of local lay committees and action groups at her catholic parish. She has expressed herself for women priests, and against judgmentalism, and in favour of love. She always advocates “outreach” to “gays”, because she knows all the women in the group know her daughter is a first-class, obese slut, and she is a grand failure as a mother. She knows they say as much behind her back, though no one dares to challenge her. But she knows they joke among themselves, and say that her daughter is properly called Moon, because her ass is the size of a planet. She reacts by advocating the recognition of same sex marriage.
She is now 64. Her daughter does not care for anything without “Häagen-Dazs” written on it; her granddaughter is not baptised, and has a name she cannot even pronounce. No one has any ideal, or aspiration anymore. Her husband died with a broken heart two years ago, which made the finances not easier in the least. Her two abortions, had a long time ago without much of a thought, now start to create an uneasiness that becomes stronger every year. Her daughter has admitted to three abortions, but she calls them “reproductive choices”. She does not have any problem with it. “She doesn’t now…“, the mother starts to think…
Still, Mary thinks that she was, as a whole, right. She was right in raising her daughter to be “enlightened”, and “liberated”; she was right to tell her to “follow her heart”, and “chase her dreams”. She and her daughter just weren’t lucky, that’s all. She is growing resentful of all: priests, hierarchy, Church; Government, men, and… men. She now says “patriarchy” almost as often as her obese daughter. She knows, deep inside her, that she is wrong, but she can’t admit to herself she is. Because if she is, she was all her life, big time. If she is, she was instrumental in creating that fat sluttish tub of lard slowly demolishing her couch and herself, and possibly also that little innocent creature now without a father, and possibly on the way to become the new Degree Proletariat, fat and crass and lazy and resentful; all,in short, that her mother would have given her own life to spare from her. If she was wrong, she was wrong all her life, and in all her deeds.
So she can’t be wrong.
And here, my dear reader, it seems that the story must end. But must it?
Little ShoShana, the girl with the absurd, unspeakably stupid, unpronounceable name and a broken family, is now growing a healthy girl. She has an inquisitive mind, a guardian angel, and an immortal soul. She will, very soon, start to be ashamed of her mother.
Perhaps, the day will come when young ShoShana will become more curious about her past, and wants to know more about her grand-grandma. The unknown woman born in 1920 – a time so, so far away to her! -. The one who married intact, and had a life of quiet, industrious activity; of solid contentment, and faith in the Lord.
Perhaps she will realise that neither her mother nor her grandmother managed to live a happy, fulfilled life; but grand-grandma, she did. She did so through poverty and war, through the Depression and Pearl Harbour, through joy and sorrow. Giving birth to all the sons God gave her; never complaining, but always proud of being a good mother and a honest, obedient wife besides. Bearing all the crosses Jesus gave her with a kind, feminine smile; living and dying in her simple faith as the world around her rejected femininity, maternity, religion and, in one word, sanity.
The Holy Ghost is there, watching. Her Guardian Angel is there, helping. One day, ShoShana – the daughter of an absentee father and a whoring, obese, uncaring mother – might well stop in front of a church, and think of her grand-grandmother; she might feel a strange, sweet ache; a desire for contentment, fulfillment, purity. A desire to be what she is truly born to be.
Perhaps, ShoShana will start to investigate her roots, and will start to like them.
The Lord never stops to pave the way. Who knows, the way could be going back to one’s roots, and to the sober understanding that once upon a time, people did make things in the right way, and lived better lives as a result. Particularly those women, who lived and died happily under the “Patriarchy”, and found it the only way to live a honest woman’s life.
Good luck to you, little girl with the absurd, unspeakably stupid, unpronounceable name. It would seem the odds are not in your favour; but you have a Guardian Angel, and the Lord is watching you with great love.
The Lord never stops to pave the way.