When did you become your mother? For me, it was yesterday, in the dark, with stained glass windows above spilling gospel stories into the silent night.
It was the feast of the Immaculate Conception and I had missed every other mass in town. Just past what should have been supper time I was late, and hurrying up the hill for the 6:30 mass. The December wind blew cold against my soaking wet hair. A long and complicated series of events resulted in the hair being washed and combed just before I flew out the door to church, but the chilly winter air was foiled by my extraordinary coat. This coat, a gift from my husband’s grandmother, enveloped me from hood to shin in expensive, extremely dowdy, goose downed splendor. Against the coat I spread the fingers of one hand protectively against the tiny infant swaddled in a blanket against my chest. My other hand was wrapped tightly around the small hand of my four year old daughter, and I turned to show her the light shining into the darkness, to ponder for a brief moment the simple beauty and mystery of Advent and our church at the night.
Up the hill and around the corner, we ducked into the back door and the very back pew where, when settled, I had plenty of time to ponder her outfit. My four year old was wearing a sparkling party dress, appropriate for a feast but layered over a mismatched outfit, and her curly hair formed a rather fantastic halo due to the fact that it clearly hadn’t been brushed for days. As she quietly played in the pew next to me, I noticed that her cheek and palms had been decorated with markers, and her fingernails were dirty.
The choir sang, the mass proceeded, the four year old behaved beautifully (dirty fingers and all) and the baby nursed. After communion the four year old leaned over and said “Mama, this wasn’t very exciting!”, so I told her that after we sang Salve Regina and the mass ended we’d head to the side altar and light a candle at the Black Madonna who is bejeweled and beautiful. And so we did, and I said a prayer for my mother, whom I realized I’d just become.