YES OH MY YES.
I confess it was very late at night, and I began wondering about our President’s mother. Where was she born? How old was she? What was her name? How were things going in her marriage? Was he her first baby, her first son? Where was her mom? Her sisters? Her auntie, her grandma? Had she had a successful experience by the time it came time to nurse the amazing child who would grow up to be President.
Mothering a son is different than a mothering a daughter. Or at least that’s what we are told, Somehow gender is a factor in how we love and nurture. When I held my son close, and cuddled, was it different than holding my daughter? When I lost control, or felt ill, or inept, was I different with my son than my daughter. Did I have higher expectations for myself and for him?
My Nana, my paternal grandmother was an immigrant traveling here by ship from Trinidad . She first arrived here at age 17 years old with her two younger twin brothers in tow. Some nine years later, she had her two boys both born at home with nurse midwives. She nursed them both for a long time as was their custom and she prayed that her sons would be great and promised God all good things if their lives would be spared the pandemic of their day, the 1918 Spanish flu. I can barely imagine what it was like to nurse my baby in the midst of quarantine. 50 million people lost worldwide. Would fear completely overwhelm me? She described so many children lost, soldiers quickly wounded and dying from the Great War, and traveling by ship across The Atlantic. She first traveled alone, and then with her twin brothers, recalling her own mother’s illness; their faith, the violence, the lynchings; sons who inflicted unspeakable harm, unimaginable sorrow, grief and separations, days when it seemed that none would be spared.
Our President’s paternal grandfather died in 1918 from the pandemic. Apparently they were together one day for a walk and the next day, he died suddenly. I wonder how his mother with a young son only 14 years old felt losing her husband alone in a new country. She too was an immigrant! A young woman having to go on alone with her son who had the courage and foresight to build a prosperous family business. By the age of 31, her son married a woman he loved in 1936 and they soon started a family.
Our President was the fourth of five children born to a MOM, the youngest of ten children who immigrated from Scotland to join her sister in New York at age 17. Like my grandmother, leaving a small island; the future essentially unknown, but filled with promise. Maybe there were no other choices! She wanted only the best for her self and her sons. Something more, but she would gladly settle for survival and a long healthy life of service and joy. What might we have to endure? What might we all have in common?
I have to think on that one a bit and wonder a bit more. It has been a very long time since I held a baby at the breast. and drifted off to sleep, knowing all was well, feeling safe, not hungry, not thirsty, and not afraid. As a mother I felt the most power ever in my ability to not only love, but to protect and dream and wish for a world full of wonderful things I would prepare my son for when he was no longer small enough and portable enough to be held in my arms.
Today I pray for all mothers and sons. May they be protected for all the days of their lives. May our mothers find courage, find comfort, find love and the gentle space to wish and wonder and care for their babies. We have no idea what our sons will become, or how we will manage. We teach love at the breast; but it is not our only tool.
Today we unite with all mothers everywhere. We call for peace, grace, mercy, justice, but most of all the capacity to love safe from harm. Tell your story. Listen closely to the mothers all around you!