The Memory Of A Lullaby

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Today is Mothers Day in Britain, or more correctly, Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Since Easter is a Moveable Feast, the date is not fixed, but always falls close to Lady Day, or the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin on March 25th. Before the schism with Rome in Tudor times, the whole of life revolved around the liturgical calendar which bound together all ranks of society and shades of belief and provided appropriate rituals for the expression of the whole spectrum of human emotions. Centuries later, when that way of life had long withered on the vine, right up until a decade or two after WWII, along with the seasons and the phases of the moon, those festal days were still marked in ordinary diaries as a matter of course, though few were observed. Some hark back to time immemorial in one form or another. Pagans will point out that these events were 'hijacked' by Christianity rather than subsumed in a new enlightenment about the nature of God. 

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Mothering Sunday has no feminist charge. Traditionally, it was the day on which daughters who had gone into domestic service to relieve the burden on the family budget and increase the chance of meeting a spouse, were allowed home bearing gifts for their mothers. The gift of life itself was thereby honoured.

It's worth remarking that not all children are born to loving mothers, though the notion is an anathema striking at the very roots of our humanity. For them, I recommend the Rosary with its dynamic interior blessings. If approached with expectancy and an open mind, it will gradually wreak a change in perspective that is life-transforming.

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I have looked high and low for notable quotes about mothers and have found them largely impoverished, either conveyed in platitudes and fluffy jokes, or else wreathed in an idealism and mystique that hints at our fumbling search for Mary, the New Eve and essence of motherhood. Such 'wisdom' subscribes very little to the arduous, if noble, struggle of trial and error that is a common reality amid the joys and delights. The quote lending a title to this post is one coined by widely-loved American blogger, Robert Brault, and couches a thought which, when examined, is quite profound and echoes the Hail Mary:

'Perhaps we are given a mother that we might take into death the memory of a lullaby.'

God bless all mothers today. May they and their children find their way, linked by a bond which hallows the positive. 

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In celebration of the theme, these paintings are from the wonderful Pennsylvania-born artist of the 19th Century, Mary Cassatt, a friend of Degas.

'I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art," she once wrote to a friend. "It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.'

As a woman, she held her corner among the male-dominated artistic establishment of her day, and defied her father in order to study in Paris. He claimed he would rather see her dead than a Bohemian in that city. Thanks to her conviction and persistence, she was able to bring to the attention of the world a powerful feminine narrative that is fresh, subtle and mesmerising.

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Comments 12

 
Katherine Gregor on Sunday, 15 March 2015 15:54

"It's worth remarking that not all children are born to loving mothers". Deeply sad – and, sadly, true.

Motherhood is a blessing and a privilege and, I believe, should not be mistaken for a right. Nor should women believe that being a mother gives them any special status (or rights) over those women who have either not chosen to become mothers or been blessed with the opportunity to have a child.

But a true mother – one who nurtures, forgives, accepts and does not store her perceptive knowledge of her offspring for future ammunition – that is a true gift!

"It's worth remarking that not all children are born to loving mothers". Deeply sad – and, sadly, true. Motherhood is a blessing and a privilege and, I believe, should not be mistaken for a right. Nor should women believe that being a mother gives them any special status (or rights) over those women who have either not chosen to become mothers or been blessed with the opportunity to have a child. But a true mother – one who nurtures, forgives, accepts and does not store her perceptive knowledge of her offspring for future ammunition – that is a true gift!
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 15 March 2015 17:25

I suspect you and I have similar experiences, Katia. I can't say that my mother should never have been a mother, because in the grand scheme of things there is a purpose for everything and everyone, and the ripples go on widening. But, though a meticulous housekeeper, mine wasn't blessed with the maternal instinct and had little understanding of the concept of 'love' for anyone. As Oprah Winfrey says:Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.

To me, it's quite mind-blowing that having a child should ever be considered a right. I don't think we have automatic rights to anything on this planet. We may have hopes and expectations which lead to a striving for fairness and justice all round, but rights are a different matter. Everything we enjoy is a gift from Providence.

So very true - your last paragraph! Mine was decidedly not one of those!

God bless, and thanks for your insights :-)

I suspect you and I have similar experiences, Katia. I can't say that my mother should never have been a mother, because in the grand scheme of things there is a purpose for everything and everyone, and the ripples go on widening. But, though a meticulous housekeeper, mine wasn't blessed with the maternal instinct and had little understanding of the concept of 'love' for anyone. As Oprah Winfrey says:[i]Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.[/i] To me, it's quite mind-blowing that having a child should ever be considered a right. I don't think we have automatic rights to anything on this planet. We may have hopes and expectations which lead to a striving for fairness and justice all round, but rights are a different matter. Everything we enjoy is a gift from Providence. So very true - your last paragraph! Mine was decidedly not one of those! God bless, and thanks for your insights :-)
Stephen Evans on Sunday, 15 March 2015 18:03

You and I have written of mothers, yours and mine. The distinction between mother and mothering maybe allows a broader and possibly more truthful interpretation.

You and I have written of mothers, yours and mine. The distinction between mother and mothering maybe allows a broader and possibly more truthful interpretation.
Katherine Gregor on Sunday, 15 March 2015 18:12

I believe the vast majority of mothers love their children – but don't necessarily like them. A friend who had a very difficult relationship with her mother recently told me that the moment she realised her mother didn't actually like her was one of great liberation for my friend. It seems their relationship much improved after that realisation.

I believe the vast majority of mothers love their children – but don't necessarily like them. A friend who had a very difficult relationship with her mother recently told me that the moment she realised her mother didn't actually like her was one of great liberation for my friend. It seems their relationship much improved after that realisation.
Rosy Cole on Monday, 16 March 2015 18:48

I found this, too, if speaking for myself, but it didn't improve the relationship with my mother. I developed coping strategies and found ways to 'tame the tiger', but the basic problems never went away. There was no way I could make her happy without seeming to her to be her in every detail and you can imagine how untenable that is even as an illusion. The picture is complicated by matters of race and perceived privilege, by her personality issues and possibly by my survival at the expense of my twin.

To some problems, there is no solution but existential prayer and getting through.

I found this, too, if speaking for myself, but it didn't improve the relationship with my mother. I developed coping strategies and found ways to 'tame the tiger', but the basic problems never went away. There was no way I could make her happy without seeming[i] to her[/i] to be her in every detail and you can imagine how untenable that is even as an illusion. The picture is complicated by matters of race and perceived privilege, by her personality issues and possibly by my survival at the expense of my twin. To some problems, there is no solution but existential prayer and getting through.
Virginia M Macasaet on Sunday, 15 March 2015 22:54

Amen to all!! Uncannily, I just posted mom in remembrance of her 6th death anniversary. Motherhood indeed is a blessing! It's a life journey that keeps evolving. Bless all mothers out there!

Amen to all!! Uncannily, I just posted mom in remembrance of her 6th death anniversary. Motherhood indeed is a blessing! It's a life journey that keeps evolving. Bless all mothers out there!
Anonymous on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 20:02

I'm just back after 5 days without my computer. Somebody swindled me through my ATM number which caused an annoying mess. But, enough of that.

The images you've presented are as always well-selected and moving. I never knew much about Mary Cassatt except for a few paintings and her name and here she was a fellow Pennsylvanian. But those paintings evoke for me a time long gone and I believe lost forever. As art they are beyond graphic in the sense that I can feel them. But there is a sentiment living in them that might only exist in these and other depictions from the past. I'm not saying there aren't loving mothers today but I am saying that there is something missing now that most modern mothers don't and won't know about. Reverence for parents and especially mothers -- a reverence that was once commonplace, is gone and only people of a certain age even know about it. That reverence kept many boys and young men of my early life from becoming criminals. Many came close but at a crucial moment that reverence pulled them back.

I've neglected your wonderful prose here but you brought it on yourself with those heart-filling visuals. I feel as if I could touch the people. The information you provided is invaluable. I read some of it to my 85-year-old sister who was a much better daughter than I was a son. And, Rosy, while I'm not a Pollyanna, you've done well and are and have been a good person, an accomplished person, so somebody did something well. We do have to remember, apart from actual abuse, parents had parents too. So much of what happens in the course of evolution is accident. I could say so much more but the only fair thing to do would be to write my own essay instead of encroaching on yours. Good reading, good viewing. So I'll celebrate Mothering Sunday on Saint Patrick's Day.

I'm just back after 5 days without my computer. Somebody swindled me through my ATM number which caused an annoying mess. But, enough of that. The images you've presented are as always well-selected and moving. I never knew much about Mary Cassatt except for a few paintings and her name and here she was a fellow Pennsylvanian. But those paintings evoke for me a time long gone and I believe lost forever. As art they are beyond graphic in the sense that I can feel them. But there is a sentiment living in them that might only exist in these and other depictions from the past. I'm not saying there aren't loving mothers today but I am saying that there is something missing now that most modern mothers don't and won't know about. Reverence for parents and especially mothers -- a reverence that was once commonplace, is gone and only people of a certain age even know about it. That reverence kept many boys and young men of my early life from becoming criminals. Many came close but at a crucial moment that reverence pulled them back. I've neglected your wonderful prose here but you brought it on yourself with those heart-filling visuals. I feel as if I could touch the people. The information you provided is invaluable. I read some of it to my 85-year-old sister who was a much better daughter than I was a son. And, Rosy, while I'm not a Pollyanna, you've done well and are and have been a good person, an accomplished person, so somebody did something well. We do have to remember, apart from actual abuse, parents had parents too. So much of what happens in the course of evolution is accident. I could say so much more but the only fair thing to do would be to write my own essay instead of encroaching on yours. Good reading, good viewing. So I'll celebrate Mothering Sunday on Saint Patrick's Day.
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 18:43

Charlie, Mary would have been very glad to hear you say her paintings are 'beyond graphic' and that you can 'feel' them. That is what she was aiming for and when she saw Degas' work something was triggered. She would have been so touched that you call them 'heart-filling'.

Yes, I understand exactly what you're saying about that time long gone and the 'reverence' that is missing. (With that, came a lot of pleasure and thankfulness.) I think it extends to the whole of existence now, certainly in the western world, not so much in other cultures, because we have abandoned our basic creed and the foundation of our 'civilisation'. I often think, too, that laws and biblical precepts are there to protect people. It's better they don't visit some areas of human nature. When education taught children to question everything, it should have been alongside the wisdom of taking some things about respectful behaviour on trust. Of course, where it all fell down was that clearly defined moral code invites judgment. The caution about the casting of stones is seldom taken on board.

Thank you for the kind personal things you say which are greatly appreciated. I was very, very lucky in that many good circumstances fell together for me whilst growing up - the right place at the right time - and I owe a lot to two or three Methodist families who took me under their wing. Plus, I never doubted the presence of God and was conscious of it as far back as I can remember (perhaps partly due to being the surviving half of twins). That is a gift, I think. The promise that J C makes good all our losses has proved true.

Hope you had a happy St Patrick's Day. And thanks for your interesting comments :-)

Charlie, Mary would have been very glad to hear you say her paintings are 'beyond graphic' and that you can 'feel' them. That is what she was aiming for and when she saw Degas' work something was triggered. She would have been so touched that you call them 'heart-filling'. Yes, I understand exactly what you're saying about that time long gone and the 'reverence' that is missing. (With that, came a lot of pleasure and thankfulness.) I think it extends to the whole of existence now, certainly in the western world, not so much in other cultures, because we have abandoned our basic creed and the foundation of our 'civilisation'. I often think, too, that laws and biblical precepts are there to protect people. It's better they don't visit some areas of human nature. When education taught children to question everything, it should have been alongside the wisdom of taking some things about respectful behaviour on trust. Of course, where it all fell down was that clearly defined moral code invites judgment. The caution about the casting of stones is seldom taken on board. Thank you for the kind personal things you say which are greatly appreciated. I was very, very lucky in that many good circumstances fell together for me whilst growing up - the right place at the right time - and I owe a lot to two or three Methodist families who took me under their wing. Plus, I never doubted the [i]presence[/i] of God and was conscious of it as far back as I can remember (perhaps partly due to being the surviving half of twins). That is a gift, I think. The promise that J C makes good all our losses has proved true. Hope you had a happy St Patrick's Day. And thanks for your interesting comments :-)
Anonymous on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 20:57

Nice that you got what I was trying to say. I'm never sure I've said it as intended. As for being the surviving half of twins, do you
think it's too fanciful to believe a departed sibling can help us in some ways? My next older brother died in 1999. Our relationship had
at times been contentious but near the end of his life I felt that he was trying to make up for things and for a while after he died
I believed he was steering me clear of mistakes. With a relationship as close as a twin I think this might be even more likely.

Nice that you got what I was trying to say. I'm never sure I've said it as intended. As for being the surviving half of twins, do you think it's too fanciful to believe a departed sibling can help us in some ways? My next older brother died in 1999. Our relationship had at times been contentious but near the end of his life I felt that he was trying to make up for things and for a while after he died I believed he was steering me clear of mistakes. With a relationship as close as a twin I think this might be even more likely.
Rosy Cole on Friday, 20 March 2015 22:11

Charlie, I don't think it's fanciful at all to suppose those close to us, in one way or another, watch over us when we can no longer see them. Sometimes, I sense that the veils are very thin and feel sure the next dimension is closer than we think. Connection with those we have been spiritually attuned to will not be lost. I'm not speaking of Spiritualism and certainly wouldn't seek out any kind of communication, but I know it exists in many forms and it's not spooky.

We don't give much thought to the power of Jung's 'collective unconscious', either, and the spiritual element in our own make-up which is not a fixed entity within our frames and personalities.

I'm glad if a sense of your brother gives you comfort.

Thank you for sharing :-)

Charlie, I don't think it's fanciful at all to suppose those close to us, in one way or another, watch over us when we can no longer see them. Sometimes, I sense that the veils are very thin and feel sure the next dimension is closer than we think. Connection with those we have been spiritually attuned to will not be lost. I'm not speaking of Spiritualism and certainly wouldn't seek out any kind of communication, but I know it exists in many forms and it's not spooky. We don't give much thought to the power of Jung's 'collective unconscious', either, and the spiritual element in our own make-up which is not a fixed entity within our frames and personalities. I'm glad if a sense of your brother gives you comfort. Thank you for sharing :-)
Orna Raz on Thursday, 19 March 2015 14:24

Thank you dear Rosy, what a lovely essay and paintings of Mary Cassatt who is one of my most favorite artist. In Israel unfortunately Mother's Day was taken over by the new and "improved" Family Day. As one of Barbara Pym's characters used to say "a change is a bad thing"

Thank you dear Rosy, what a lovely essay and paintings of Mary Cassatt who is one of my most favorite artist. In Israel unfortunately Mother's Day was taken over by the new and "improved" Family Day. As one of Barbara Pym's characters used to say "a change is a bad thing"
Rosy Cole on Friday, 20 March 2015 22:20

Orna, I didn't know that Mothers Day, at least historically, was celebrated in Israel on the same day as the UK and am intrigued. I wonder why that is, when it won't have the same origins. Can't help feeling that the Barbara Pym character's remark would have been appropriate in this case. You can have a family day at any time - and there are birthdays and religious festivals - but even in these days of advanced education and careers, and perhaps especially so, it's good to be reminded what an important job motherhood is, and what an investment in the future on so many levels.

Thanks kindly for your comment :-)

Orna, I didn't know that Mothers Day, at least historically, was celebrated in Israel on the same day as the UK and am intrigued. I wonder why that is, when it won't have the same origins. Can't help feeling that the Barbara Pym character's remark would have been appropriate in this case. You can have a family day at any time - and there are birthdays and religious festivals - but even in these days of advanced education and careers, and perhaps especially so, it's good to be reminded what an important job motherhood is, and what an investment in the future on so many levels. Thanks kindly for your comment :-)
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