Monday, October 08, 2007

Before Mary Was the Mother of God

Before Mary was the Madonna, she was a little girl. She wore party dresses to parties, played hopscotch with other little girls, braided her hair with her girl friends and whispered secrets about boys she liked. She played with dolls, dressed them up and pretended to take them to schul. She taught them prayers that she, herself, was learning as a little girl, like the blessings before Shabbat and the prayer to say when hanging a mezuzah. She loved to dip her fingers into the clay pot where her Mother stored honey and she loved to sneak sweet licks in between meals, even though she knew she was not supposed to.

Before Mary gave birth to the Son of Man, she dreamed of marrying a kind man, a good man, one who would take care of her, one who would dote on her, a handsome, rugged man who would give her lots of children, girls and boys. She always wanted girls, but never spoke this aloud to anyone for fear of insulting Yahweh. She dreamed of meaningful yet boisterous Seder dinners with this man. She even knew the scent of him as he came home from a long day at work, a scent that reminded her slightly of her father.

Before Mary was a miracle and a mystery, she dreamed of watching her children grow into young adulthood, of watching them marry under the canopy, and eventually giving her lots of grandchildren as she grew old and gray. Before she uttered that fateful “Yes”, accepting unimaginable suffering, she believed that life was hard but good and that her God of Abraham was the sound choice of gods of her day.

Before Mary was persuaded by that angel, she was just a girl who loved to read. She was thoughtful, and looked after Samaritans, tax collectors and synagogue attending Jews alike. She befriended Romans, offering drinks and baked goods whenever she had the chance.

Before she gave away her life, she’d had only one period and thinking this was a sign from Yahweh she believed it a miracle until she learned from her mother, aunts and female cousins that this was the way it was for all women. She was naïve, but God loves the naïve ones - they are so much easier to work with. Then after learning that her “period” was not a miracle at all, and at age thirteen, became pregnant never once having tasted the sweetness of conjugal love. Now pregnant and unmarried she knew she would have to attend community college at night to get her degree, all while taking care of a toddler with a “messiah-complex”. She was aware that she lived in a part of the world and during a time in history where women in this condition were usually stoned to death. She would learn to lay low, to ignore the graffiti spray-painted by the gangs that roamed the streets of Palestine, the ones calling her “SLUT”, the ones who would taunt her with comments about her “bastard kid” who would never amount to anything. They would tell her she was a drain on society, living off Roman welfare, driving the Empire into ruin.

Still, there was a steel-like quality in her love for Jesus and others. Everyone underestimated her: her parents, her friends, her cousins and aunts and uncles. They all told her she should move, to find a man who would marry her before she began to “show”. She refused but even still, she decided to ask Joseph to help because she knew he would. He was her prom date after all and even though he was a jock at school he was a good guy, a reliable guy. He was one of those guys who worked with his hands in woodshop, and always smelled like fresh cedar or dogwood and always had pine shaving in his hair.

Before the pregnancy that defied all logic, before her bloated-ness and tiredness, before her Braxton Hicks contractions, the constant need to pee, the incessant backaches, even before a birth which by modern third world standards seemed primitive and savage – before all those things, Mary was just a little girl who once suckled at her mother’s breasts, who sometimes had nightmares and would run to snuggle next to her Mother as she slept. Once, she was just a little girl who wanted to make a difference by being a mother and giving love.

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