CNF: Mary Leoson’s Lyric Essay “In Search of Eve: A Lyrical Essay about the Maternal Line”

/, LITERARY ARTS, Memoir, Nonfiction, Personal Essay/CNF: Mary Leoson’s Lyric Essay “In Search of Eve: A Lyrical Essay about the Maternal Line”

Mary Leoson

 

In Search of Eve: A Lyrical Essay about the Maternal Line

“Gate in the Garden” by Paul Klee

Branches dangle before me, sweeping to and fro with the wind,
electrified strands of hair.
Is this what I come from and to what I return?
Grandmother Tree, speak.

You inherit the rings inside me,
the marrow beneath the bark
the beautiful and ugly,
made of light and dark.
the shame and decay haunt,
like karma’s twisted spell
memory slips through your fingers
in the vessel where you dwell
love is the key to understand
the sins of the mother
for the reflection in the mirror
is the likeness of the other
careful how you judge
the wounds of the past
for you carry them inside you
and you won’t be the last
a story told in blood
handed down like legacy
transmute the pain to hope
lest you turn into me.

*

Webster defines the Mother Wound as “…the pain of being a woman passed down through generations of women in patriarchal cultures. And it includes the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that are used to process that pain” (“Why It’s Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound”). This encompasses more than the mother-daughter dynamic but includes it as well. Messages are transposed on future generations like an infection.

*

I was born in June of 1974. My mother says I had a mouth like a rosebud and my hands were graceful, like a ballerina’s. The roses always bloom just before my birthday. I was a perfect fairy tale—at the beginning.

*

One is never a blank slate.

*

Ireland 79%
Finland/Sweden 7%
Europe West- Germany, France, The Netherlands 3%
Iberian Peninsula – Spain, Portugal 3%
Europe East – Middle East 2%
Great Britain 2%
Italy/Greece <1%
Scandinavia <1%
Pacific Islander – Polynesia <1%
West Asia – Caucasus – Turkey <1%

 

(My DNA Results – Ancestry.com)

*

Cinderella set the stage for my girlish fantasies of the prince on a white horse, but The Little Mermaid clarified the price I might have to pay. Even though Ariel ultimately sacrificed her voice, she was stubbornly rebellious, which at the time was revolutionary for the female narrative (Higgins 66). I see this mirrored in my own self-proclaimed war on religion as a teenager. My parents thought it was a phase; I knew better.

*

The voiceless mermaid was an ominous harbinger of my first marriage years later, where my Cinderella expectations would meet reality. I had no narrative to follow, so I made it up myself. Sometimes things need to be destroyed before they can be rebuilt. A princess, a fairy tale—even me. But when I was a child, I couldn’t imagine anything else but a happy ending.

*

As a young girl, my narrative identity was derived from fantasy in many ways. McAdams and McLean define narrative identity as “a person’s internalized and evolving life story, integrating the reconstructed past and imagined future to provide life with some degree of unity and purpose” (233). While fairy tales may have provided the foundation, my experiences formed layer upon layer, like bark covering the soft marrow. What didn’t know is that my narrative began a long time ago. Some wounds are older than one’s own story… some wounds have been passed from generation to generation.

*

My mom was a loving one. She was very nurturing when I was young; our days before my four brothers were born were filled with stories and baking. She jokes now about how I was determined to change my clothes for every activity (I will admit, I still have a preoccupation with dresses and occasions to wear them). I remember those days fondly, with the smell of yeast from rising bread and my mother’s lulling voice as the sun chased shadows across the living room floor.

*

I had my mom to myself until I was three, but was moved further away from her with each brother that came along. One. Two. Three. Four. Until finally I was mere scenery in the landscape of our family. A girl lost in the sea of more important boys. I was a fissure in our Celtic knot, left to figure out the rules of womanhood on my own.

*

Rules for girls, circa 1974 (for me):

  1. Be nice (and pretty). Be pretty nice.
  2. Act like a lady (this often requires a social mask). In other words, smile.
  3. Be polite at all cost (even yourself). Your worth is based on likeability.

*

As soon as I could read, I was given “Tiffany’s Table Manners” and a book by Emily Post. These guides for good manners among girls were passed down the family line to ensure my lady-like grace and poise. What I really needed to learn about was strength—not deferring to others (especially men). But there was no such thing as a well-respected, rebellious woman—at least in the tales prior to The Little Mermaid, but that wouldn’t come along until high school.

*

My family wanted the best for me—my own happily ever after—but these messages taught me to be taken advantage of, to not stick up for myself, and to silence my own voice that was screaming on the inside. My inner world became a tangle of thorns; I was going to have to learn to cut my own path if I’d ever make it out of Neverland.

Smile! If you smile, no one can tell you’re falling apart.

*

Chang shared a post on “These Little Things” that went viral on Facebook. It reviewed the 1955 “Good House Wife’s Guide” that outlined how to be a successful woman at that time. Though 1955 was almost 20 years before I was born, it was only a year after my mother’s birth, so this text was in circulation during both of my grandmother’s years of early marriage. It unconsciously lay the foundation for the role I was expected to play as a young lady.

In preparation for homecoming of one’s husband after a long day, a wife had best: “Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking” (Chang).

Be nice (and pretty). Be pretty nice.

“Free him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him” (Chang). Act like a lady (this often requires a social mask). In other words, smile.

“Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours” (Chang). Be polite at all cost (even yourself). Your worth is based on likeability.

*

If girls are taught only to be nice and pretty, they are trained to appease others at the expense of their own self-worth. Their feelings, failures, and successes are not about them—they only derive worth from how the world sees them. They are set up to become victims, constantly seeking validation from the outside.

*

Barbie or Madonna. Either way, you were expected to be thin, blonde, and filled with sex appeal. In fifth grade, Allison and I went to the dollar store on Cedar road, bought florescent earrings, laced gloves, and leather chokers. Her parents laughed, my father made me take them back to the store. Through tears, I handed them over while the clerk choked on her words. My father had yelled at her, too. She masked her shame politely, waited until we left to cry. Princesses don’t wear chokers.

*

I asked my mother why I was so short and my legs wider than those of my friends. She said, “God makes us perfect, just the way we are. He knows how we will look best.” I think, he missed the boat with me.

*

If Barbie is your idol and you’re a five-foot Irish girl with dark hair and a curvy body, you’re pretty much screwed.

*

The world throws messages at teenage girls like darts. Fashion magazines, celebrities, peer pressure to conform. Thank God I grew up before the Internet.

*

I began working out obsessively in high school. This was partly due to what my parents thought were “gentle prods” to tend to my appearance, and partly due to societal expectations and messages from the media. I achieved this “ideal” in many ways, but it did little for my internal worth. The result was a beautiful mask that hid secrets.

*

I rejected Catholicism and turned to a freer spiritual path early in life—during the first years of high school I began to learn about meditation, chakras, and other walks of faith. My parents weren’t happy about it, but I was chasing magic in a world of strangling rules.

*

Spirit had followed me ever since I could remember. Sitting in church, I could feel the love emanating from others in the pews, but what I felt from most nuns and priests was different. Judgment, dogma, separation.

I found God among the trees, walking on the beach, in the eyes of a beloved dog. I was seeking redemption, but my family saw a sinner.

*

My mother didn’t abandon me to the wolves of media and peer influence on purpose; how can one woman bestow attention to five children equally? But in the wake of sibling additions, I felt a loss that I didn’t know how to grieve. The only thing I had to hold onto was my own faith walk, a path that was not in line with the expectations for an Irish Catholic family.

I wonder now if this is how she felt as a child, the eldest female sibling—a pseudo mother for the youngest in the clan. Robbed of childhood in many ways, shouldering responsibilities that were meant for adults, flailing in a patriarchal society. A mirror of my life.

*

I sit in the branches, peering down at the grassy floor of earth. Everything looks beautiful up here, but I can’t stay in the clouds. Sooner or later, gravity will win, and I will slide back down to the roots.

*

Rules for girls, circa 1954 (for my mother):

  1. Be nice (and pretty and thin). Be pretty perfectly
  2. Act like a lady (this often requires a social mask). In other words, smile and keep the secrets.
  3. Be polite at all cost (even yourself). Your worth is based on likeability.
  4. If something bad happens, don’t tell anyone. It will ruin your image. Refer to rule #2.

*

My mother was a very bright girl. She even skipped a grade in her younger years, though when I asked her about it, she said it may have been because her mother wanted her to be more successful. Achievement was one way to prove a woman’s worth (this is a cycle in which I have also been caught, as I am working on my third Master’s Degree now). While expectation can be harmful, sometimes it can push us to excel, and my mother did.

*

Familial cycles, habits that are handed down
Some wound, some heal
Some exist beneath the surface
Fester like infection
Others manifest in talent
Voices rising into the sky
Prayers for liberation from
Harmful patterns.

*

My grandmother was not warm with my mother. When she was a girl, my mom was forced to attend a school in the snow belt that required an extensive bus ride. Grandma told her it was “high caliber” and would be good for her development. Once, during a snowstorm, she refused to pick her up when the buses stopped running. “Stay at one of your friends’ houses,” she said. But my mom didn’t have any yet. She stayed with a family who was kind enough to host her, but my mom went to bed feeling abandoned.

*

Nancy Drew was a favorite of my mom’s growing up. Drew was a powerful female role model during the mid-twentieth century because she was a strong and smart girl who could keep up with the boys (Farsteing). Interestingly, she was motherless and had a strong bond with her father. I wonder if somehow Nancy Drew escaped the inherited mother wound, but that would also assume there was no harm in growing up motherless, which of course is inaccurate. Perhaps it is more productive to consider the power of nurturing men here, despite the fictional nature of the book.

*

Mom was a self-described tomboy in many ways. She ran around the neighborhood pretending to be a horse. She yelled louder than most of the boys and was even stung by bees twice on the tongue (she says this with pride, evidence of her outspoken nature). But her wild spirit was tamed by social expectation. I can’t help but wonder what she might have been like if her voice would have been nurtured.

*

Self-silencing beliefs consists of “prioritize(ing) other’s voices over (one’s) own” and “are consistent with prescriptive gender roles for women, indicate that one should avoid conflict in relationships, put others’ needs over one’s own, accept a discrepancy between one’s personal and public self, and judge one’s behaviors by external standards” (Swim, Eyssell, Murdoch, and Ferguson, 493). My mom learned how to self-silence and I learned by watching her. I wonder how far this goes back in our matrilineal line and hope to God that my daughter hasn’t learned it from me.

*

When mom talks of her childhood, theater and performance are usually the things that make her smile. This does not seem to be something she inherited from either parent, though her vocal gifts were passed to both me and my daughter. A splash of color in the black and white of the 1950’s gender expectations.

*

When my mom went away to college, she had dreams of a career on stage. She had the talent to back it up, too. When she came home for winter break and looked for her cat, grandma told her she’d had it put down. She never got to say goodbye.

*

Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty splashed across the big screen during the 1950’s (Higgins 64). They epitomized the idea of a “lady” with grace, gentleness, and contentment with a domestic life (64). Higgins writes that “marriage is the true savior of these women”, and so it was also for my mother, freeing her from my grandmother’s meddlesome hand (65).

*

Like a pair of magical shoes, she hands the wounds to me.
I slip them on, show them off, wonder at their sparkle.
They are disguised in shine, the air shimmers around them,
Like a portal back in time.

They fit perfectly, as if they were made for me.
They show off my petite feet, my muscular calves,
Like the women before me.
But they are lies.

Wearing them hurts my feet,
I ache after a while.
The grasp is tight, rough—
I feel a blister forming.
And I want to take them off but
I can’t.

*

Childhood memories of my grandmother are fleeting.

She used to put butter on sandwiches; my mom said this is because she grew up during the depression.

She had an old doll named Eleanor that sat in a tiny rocking chair; it must have been her childhood toy. I don’t know much about that childhood.

She made crockpot dinners because she worked more than other mothers of her time; she taught at a private Catholic college.

*

At family parties, my cousin and I would sneak up to her bedroom and fantasize about using the little bottles of perfume that dotted her dresser. When she was through visiting with others, she’d come upstairs to find us, gift us with small vials of scent, cylinders of color, compacts with half-used powder. It’s one of the only happy memories I have of her. When I smell pressed powder, I still think of her.

*

Once, when my mom and I were looking for something in Grandma’s attic, we came upon an old box. It held pictures of my grandparents, one of my grandfather from the Army in WWII. It was the first time I learned that he was in a war, and that he was significantly older than my grandmother. There was also a book in the box, “Gone with the Wind”. On the inside cover, the inscription read: To My Scarlett. It was from my grandfather to my grandmother, whose maiden name was O’Harra.

*

Grandma taught Public Relations and Communications classes, and for a little while, she taught Women’s Studies. I can’t think of a person less suited to teach Women’s Studies. When she found out I wanted to teach, she tried to convince me otherwise.

“You don’t know what it’s like to walk into a classroom full of strangers, Mary Catherine. They could have anything in their bags to take their anger out on you for awarding a poor grade.” It was the first time I realized that anxiety may have ruled her life.

I found out later that she did in fact have a “chemical imbalance”. At least that’s how my mom put it. As a Psychology Professor, I know that could mean many different things: depression, anxiety (or both), bipolar disorder, and the list goes on. Looking back, I saw symptoms of depression and anxiety—no mania. But grandma plays hide-and-seek in my memory, and no other family member has mentioned it.

Shhhhhhh. It’s a secret.

*

I remember a china cabinet that housed delicate plates with flowers and filigree. The plates would make clinking noises if you walked by the cabinet too quickly. It was a frequent reason for someone to yell, “slow it down in there!” As I got to know my grandmother, I had to resist an urge to smash the plates to pieces.

*

When I was 18 and questioning my religious beliefs, I decided that I would study paganism, specifically the Old Goddess Religion that had been prevalent in Ireland. My disapproving grandmother invited me out to lunch to discuss this choice. I thought we would have an uncomfortable but not unpleasant conversation about religion, sharing thoughts from both sides. What was in store for me was a firing squad; she spat her opinions at me like poisoned darts.

“That’s witchcraft, a sin against everything I believe,” she said.

“Where do you think alters and Christmas Trees come from?” I asked, astounded that this college professor knew nothing of the origin of Catholic traditions.

“Now you be careful, Mary Catherine, you’re threatening my faith and I’m going to get very angry.”

When her beliefs were questioned, it was an issue, but mine didn’t matter. Mine were trivial, childish, meaningless.

She told my mother that if I insisted on studying this ungodly “religion”, I was not welcome at her house for Christmas. I stayed home; so did my parents and four brothers. It was yet another unnecessary rift based on fear and judgment.

I couldn’t help but wonder: How many times had this happened before?

*

The Goddess-Centered Old Religion consisted of “gifted shamans [who could] attune themselves to the spirits of the herds, and in doing so they became aware of the pulsating rhythm that infuses all life, the dance of the double spiral, of whirling into being, and whirling out again” (Starhawk 3). The beginning point was birth, the spiral dance in both directions was life, and returning to the beginning was death. It held the wisdom of Goddess’ three faces—maiden, mother, and crone.

But my grandmother equated Ireland with Catholicism—and that was the end of the discussion.

*

The Irish Celtic Goddess Brigid was cloaked in Christianity when the rest of the country converted (Monaghan 171). Her symbols included fire, earth, water, and arrows. She was associated with singing/whistling and offered wisdom about transformation (Monaghan 171-172). My family had forgotten her song, but I remembered.

*

When my grandfather passed a few years later, I began to come around the family more. My daughter was three and I felt she deserved to know her great grandmother. Grandma’s health was beginning to fail as well, and as bitter as I was about how I had been treated, I didn’t want to hold a grudge. I knew how easily it could lead to regret.

And, even though she couldn’t see it, my spiritual path had focused my heart on compassion and empathy. I had expanded beyond the Old Religion to study other indigenous paths under the umbrella of shamanism, constantly seeking the ghosts of my ancestors. So, I swallowed my pride and let the painful memory sink into shadow. But the secret still breathed.

*

I visited grandma once in the retirement home where my mom, aunts, and uncles all paid for her to stay. She was busy-bodying along with the other elderly women, gossiping and trying to fit in. I just listened, trying my best not to feel uncomfortable with the “mean girl” scenario playing out before me, despite the gray hair and wrinkled hands. The conversation turned to heritage and my grandmother proudly stated that she was a descendant of a large family that once owned farmland in Eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania. It was the first I had heard of this matrilineal line. Another woman spoke over her quickly: “Oh, everyone claims to be from that family. It’s probably just an old story your family told to feel important.”

“Oh,” said my grandmother, cowed by the Queen Bee.

It was the only time I had ever seen her shrink from a disagreement. The embarrassment was palpable; she avoided my eyes and changed the subject as quickly as possible.

*

Years later, when I received a copy of the family tree, I learned that my grandmother was in fact descended from a large family that not only owned a significant amount of farmland in Pennsylvania, but also dated back to the establishment of Fort Amsterdam, which stood before present-day New York City. The family name was Wynkoop, related distantly to: President Theodore Roosevelt, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President Martin Van Buren, Alexander Hamilton, and General William Tecumseh Sherman. At least, that’s what the genealogist tells me. The Queen Bee never learned this, nor did my grandmother.

*

I crawled down the trunk, bark scratchy under my palms.
Branches above swayed in the wind, creaking and bare.
The leaves had fallen.
They cradled my fall to the ground
Where I dug for the roots.

*

When I met with my mother to review the documents provided by the genealogist, our discussion turned to grandma. Our conversations about her had always been limited, but now I was 43 and my mom 63. The secrets had been starving for some time and they were weak.

“I would like to understand her,” I said. “Why do you think she was so… mean?”

My mother sighed, cast her eyes downward. For a moment I thought the secrets might win, but she looked back up. “Her mother was very hard on her,” she said. “I gather that she was somewhat of a Daddy’s girl, but after he died, her mother went through a difficult time.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

Mom shook her head. “I’m not sure. My mom didn’t talk about it much.”

No surprise there.

“Nan, my grandmother,” she continued, “Was wonderful to me. All I ever knew from her was kindness, but she was critical of my mom—your grandma. I have the sense that she was bullied, not only by her mother, but by many of the women in her life.”

Suddenly, it made sense. How can you teach Women’s Studies if you don’t trust women? How can you mother well if you’ve never been nurtured with kindness and warmth? She could only give to others what she had received herself. It was all she had—an old script that taught her what it was to be a woman and to mother—a mix of love and bullying.

*

Secrets haunt the corners of our family tales.
Why is everyone so afraid to speak the truth?
“Words breathe life into the secrets,” she said.
“If they are starved, maybe they’ll die.”
But they don’t die.
She is now dead and they are still breathing.
But maybe I can kill them. Maybe.

*

Poulos writes that secrets can become a communicative norm in families. They “trace the family members’ responses to sorrow, loss, trauma, and conflict that arise in their lives” (53). But “when someone musters the courage to tell the story… [there is the] healing power of storying our secrets into the light” (Poulos 53). This has become my clarion call.

*

Rules for girls circa 1927 (for my grandmother):

  1. Be nice (and pretty). Be pretty nice. Don’t embarrass the adults; your actions reflect upon them and you will be punished if you do not conform.
  2. Act like a lady (this often always requires a social mask). In other words, smile and keep the secrets.
  3. Be polite at all cost (even yourself you don’t matter, only your image does). Your worth is based on likeability entirely on what others think of you.
  4. Social engagement is an art; learn how to manipulate how others see you.
  5. Social position is obtained by completing an education, marrying well, and only working if necessary (and this had better be at a prestigious employer).
  6. If something bad happens, don’t tell anyone. It will ruin your image. Refer to rule #2.

*

In 2015, Berman wrote a piece for Time Magazine that described the beauty ideal for women in the 1930’s, the decade during which my grandmother spent her childhood and entered the impressionable pre-teen phase. This ideal focused on maintaining a woman’s curves but stressing a thin waist. It seems that this pressure to chase a beauty ideal that was becoming thinner was central to societal expectations even then. But my grandmother was a five-foot Irish girl, too.

*

The Disney Princess Snow White made her debut in 1937, showing little girls everywhere that a man’s kiss is the saving grace when you are in despair (Higgins 64). My grandmother grew up thinking that marriage was the end goal, that it defined a woman, that it would define her. I wonder how she felt about this and if she ever would have said anything other than “wonderful”, even if it wasn’t true. Princesses must be good at keeping secrets.

*

My mother gave a ring to me that belonged to my grandmother. The star sapphire is an optical illusion, a white light shining out from a tunnel of deep blue. The setting offers clusters of three diamonds on either side—an ironic triple goddess holding the light on either side. It was a gift from my grandfather to his Scarlett—a love note for a windswept girl whose roots date back in this country to the Civil War, to the Revolutionary War, and beyond. Holding the ring, I wonder briefly if they have been reunited on the other side of the veil. Then I wonder if she has made peace with Nan. Then I wonder if I have made peace with her.

*

I try to imagine what it must have been like to lose a father at a young age; losing mine in my forties was so painful—I can only guess what she went through. She was a Daddy’s girl. His name was John Francis O’Harra and he fought in WWI (his was the Wynkoop line). He was 43 when he died. My grandmother was 15.

*

Her mother, Nan, was Mary Marguerite Hafele. After her first husband died, she remarried, as I suppose would have been a way to maintain a social and economic position in the 1940’s. I wonder what her mother was like and the secrets she had to keep. And I shudder when I realize that I was probably named after her—like old, hand-me-down shoes.

*

I will never know most of my grandmother’s secrets. I suspect some of them, but they are not mine to tell. I merely hope that I can make peace with the unknown and hope to heal the wound that has been passed down, however unconsciously.

*

The roots go deep, anchoring the tree into the earth.
They feed the tree through all seasons,
Its many rings over time
Its cycles hidden beneath bark
But it is time for new nourishment
And so I sing life into it.

*

My daughter was born in April of 1995. I named her Korinne with a K for strength; I knew she was going to need it in this world of Barbie and Cinderella. She had a rosebud mouth also, but her blue eyes quickly turned to green—like my mother’s. Over time her voice became stronger and so did her will. I was glad.

*

Rules for girls, circa 1995 (for my daughter):

  1. Be nice. People can be beautiful on the inside and out. Remember that no one can make you who you are—you choose that. Lead with love and good things will follow.
  2. Act like a lady (this often sometimes requires a social mask, especially in the workforce). In other words, smile and be kind. Follow the rules, but don’t let others walk on you.
  3. Be polite at all cost (even yourself) as a general rule. Your worth is based on likeability who you are inside, but how you treat others will affect their feelings. Don’t hurt others for no reason and use your words to solve conflicts, but defend yourself if someone else throws the first punch.
  4. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t blindly follow other people.
  5. Faith is your decision. I will share my insights with you, but what you believe if up to you.
  6. I will never tell you who to date or marry. Respect your inner feelings. I will always be honest with you about concerns I have, but this is your personal journey and you must be okay with the decisions you make.
  7. Don’t keep secrets that can hurt you.
  8. Start with my rules, but this is your life. You will be responsible for making them up as you go along.

*

Disney’s princess icons changed around this time also. Mulan was released when my daughter was three (Higgins 66). A stark contrast to the more typical female characters like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, Mulan was the heroine of the story. I took her to see the movie three times in the theater.

*

My daughter did not receive “Tiffany’s Table Manners” or anything by Emily Post. Instead, I bought her books about the body and taught her about anatomy. She got the fairy tales, but we talked about them in detail—the parts that were unfair, the fact that your outside doesn’t make you who you are on the inside, the idea that all bodies are beautiful and the focus should be on health rather than fitting in. I taught her to respect others, but also to respect herself. I said it over and over until I thought it would stick: no one can make you who you are—you choose that. I did not raise her in one religion but exposed her to many; she was always free to choose her own beliefs. She is breaking the mold of what women can be in our family.

*

I am not a perfect mother. I have made mistakes, just like those who have come before me. I have tried my best to rewrite the “rules”, to break the gilded cage that held so many women before me. My daughter deserves to fly freely, untethered, unjudged. She is the most beautiful being I have ever seen.

*

There is a walking labyrinth on the grounds of the private Catholic college where my grandmother once taught. It stands before the building that once held the Sophia Center, a nod to the Mother Mary and the healing power of woman, where the nuns taught about Reiki (Japanese energy healing technique). I never attended classes there, though I am now a Reiki Master. The center was closed by a Bishop because he did not think it aligned with Catholicism.

But the labyrinth still stands. I sometimes go there when I am trying to figure things out when I am overwhelmed. I went there when I chose to divorce my first husband. I took my daughter there when she went through a breakup. For me, it is a window to spirit, not dictated by dogma or subject to patriarchal lineage. My daughter has it tattooed on her back—a symbol of spiritual freedom.

*

We sit beneath the beautiful tree, blooms swing overhead in the breeze like hope.
We share secrets in the shade, delighting in the sun that peeks through the leaves.
Grandmother Tree, listen.

I understand the role you played
For the fallen fruit
An apple bruised, not rotten
A memory from youth
The shadows may be painful
Where the scattered secrets hide
But we know the gracious thing to do
Is to see with loving eyes
Fear is only as strong
as you let it be
It doesn’t have to keep you hostage,
So far away from me
I’ve followed the trail you left us
The tangled web of roots
With Brigid’s power of fire
I am learning to transmute
Anger gives way to understanding,
This line is no longer doomed
Forgiveness dwells within
For we are healing the mother wound
Three faces of the Goddess,
We sit beneath your tree
The three of us together,
Mom, Korinne, and me.

 


Works Cited

Berman, Eliza. “This is What the Ideal Woman Looked Like in the 1930’s.” Time.com, 2 Jun 2015, http://time.com/3860561/ideal-woman-1930s/ Accessed 6 May 2018.

Chang, Angel. “This 1955 ‘Good House Wife’s Guide’ Explains how Wives Should Treat Their Husbands.” Little Things, 2014. https://www.littlethings.com/1950s-good-housewife-guide/

Fairstein, Linda. “Why Nancy Drew is an Ideal Role Model for Today’s Girls (and Boys”. The Washington Post, 3 Nov 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/why-nancy-drew-is-an-ideal-role-model-for-todays-girls-and-boys/2017/11/02/33fd763c-a9ed-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.224db8755004 Access 6 May 2018.

Higgins, Sam. “Damsels in Development: Representation, Transition, and the Disney Princess.” Screen Education, no. 83, 2016, pp. 62-69.

McAdams, Dan P., and Kate C. McLean. “Narrative Identity.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 22, no. 3, 2013, pp. 233-238.

Monaghan, Patricia. The Goddess Path. Llewellyn Publications, 1999.

Naipaul, V. S. A Way in the World. Vintage Books, 1994.

Poulos, Christopher N. “Narrative Conscience and the Autoethnographic Adventure.” Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 14, no. 1, 2008, pp. 46-66.

Serrallach, Oscar. “Healing the Mother Wound.” Goop, Relationships, 2018, https://goop.com/work/relationships/healing-the-mother-wound/ Accessed 30 Apr 2018.

Simos, Miriam Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religio of the Great Goddess. Harper & Row, 1979.

Swim, Janet K., and Kristen M. Eyssell, Erin Quinlivan Murdoch, Melissa J. Ferguson. “Self-Silencing to Sexism”. Journal of Social Issues, vol. 66, no. 3, 2010, pp. 493-507.

Webster, Bethany. “Why It’s Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound.” Womb of Light, 2017, https://womboflight.com/why-its-crucial-for-women-to-heal-the-mother-wound Accessed 30 Apr 2018.

 

About the writer:
Mary Leoson, M.S., M.A., teaches composition and psychology courses at the college level in Cleveland, Ohio. She loves to write with her dogs at her feet and somehow survives on decaf coffee and protein bars. Leoson holds an M.A. in English & Writing from Western New Mexico University and an M.S. in Psychology from Walden University. Her writing has been featured in the Twisted Vine Literary Journal, TWJ Magazine, The Write Launch, GNU Journal, The Gyara Journal, and on NPR’s “This I Believe” series.

Image: Gate in the Garden” by Paul Klee (1879–1940). Oil on panel. 21.4 in x 17.3 inches. 1926. Public domain.

 

By | 2018-09-30T17:01:21+00:00 September 30th, 2018|CNF, LITERARY ARTS, Memoir, Nonfiction, Personal Essay|