Today we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, the day when Mary goes to her cousin Elizabeth. Both are miraculously pregnant. As they approach each other, they recognize each other, as mothers, as miracles--even the babies in their wombs understand what's happening. Mary will go on to give birth to Jesus, Elizabeth to John the Baptist.
Some feast days leave me shaking my head and wondering what modern folks are to do with them. Some feast days, like today's, make me wish I'd known about them earlier. I think about my younger self who was enraged that so much femaleness seemed to be erased from Christianity. What would my raging feminist self have done with this festival?
I'm not sure she'd have been appeased. I was also in the process of trying to assert that biology isn't destiny, while also acknowledging that I was one of the first generations to be able to assert that idea.
My middle-aged self is willing to admit that biology is often destiny, although not in the womb-centric way that the phrase is often bandied about. I'm seeing too many people at the mercy of bodies that they have increasingly less control over.
Now that I am at midlife, I love this story of two women from two generations coming together to support each other. I love this story of new life being held in unlikely wombs. I am fondly remembering female members of my own extended family and offering thanks for their support. I remember the family stories they told and the ways they included me in family gatherings. I remember the rides to the airport, and memorably, one time that my cousin Barbara (my mom's first cousin) came to Augusta, 60 miles away, at night, to help me out of a jam caused by the breakdown of a car. I remember that she treated it as a grand adventure. No castigating, no lecturing.
I confess that I tend to identify with Mary in the story. Lately, I've been taking stock of how few older women friends I have. Even the female friends I have who are 10-15 years older than me seem to be in a similar life phase, wrestling with similar questions: are we doing the work we've been put on earth to do? How much money do we need? Will we ever be able to retire?
This morning it occurs to me that perhaps I have fewer older friends because I'm in a transition time--now I am the older friend. But I've always had a wide variety of friends. Perhaps I should be contemplating how our economic lives have changed. It's not that I don't have friends who are older, a generation ahead of me. It's that we're all lingering in this land of midlife markers longer than our mothers would have.
This morning, I'm struck by how few female elders are left on this side of death. If they were still here, I'd ask the same types of questions I've always asked. Those questions boil down to this one: "What advice would you give to your younger self?" Of course, the age of the younger self that most interests me is whatever age I am now.
So on this day when we remember two women of two generations supporting each other, let's say a special prayer of thanks for all who have nurtured us when the larger society could not or would not. Let's make a special effort to support those coming after us.
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