Monday, June 02, 2008

Are you there, God? It's me, the Mom.

This past Saturday, after losing a wrenching soccer game (final score 5 to 1), my first baby girl got her period at the tender age of 11 1/2.

It hadn't been a great morning. I was tired: my husband had been out of town for most of the previous week, he and I had had a tiff before I left for the game, and I was ready for a break. So when she yelled "Mom, come up here quick!" from the bathroom upstairs, I mumbled to myself, "Mom is unavailable at the moment".

But then she yelled again, "Mom, I really need to you to see this!" I went upstairs and knocked on the bathroom door, poked my head in and said, "What is it, sweetie?"

"Is this blood?"

"Oh, my God, it sure is! Oh my goodness, you've got your period! My little girl, wow, this is the beginning." And she started to get anxious, saying "Oh no" over and over.

"It's okay, honey," I intoned. "This is wonderful! You're growing up!"

Then she started to laugh, giggle, and cry all at the same time, as if the faucet that opened the way for her hormones and her blood unleashed her all at once. Then I got her a pad and a clean pair of underwear, put the soiled ones in the sink with some cold water, made sure she knew what to do, then left her alone to finish up.

Since then we've had a few brief discussions about swimming, tampons, how often, how long, and that it is indeed natural and not disgusting. Funny how that particular stain still seems so indelible even now. I've told her that I would like to celebrate with her, perhaps have lunch just the two of us; buy her a special piece of jewelry at the Strawberry Festival at our church in a couple of weeks. She's all excited now. My mom took me out for lunch and bought me a ring and a necklace, both now lost.

There are times I wish we lived in a culture that saw this as magical and wondrous, as a time for gathering women and girls together, and that she and I would take some of her blood and mark our faces like warriors, priestesses, leading all assembled in a dance to drumbeats, lit by a bonfire and starlight. Instead we have replaced all this with the blood of a innocent man, shed by violence, his body given that we might be saved.

In truth, it is my blood that saves me every month, that gives me time to myself, apart from men, to reflect and own my truth. Through the blood of our mothers we were all nourished, their bodies given that we might have life. And my firstborn daughter is now part of that long line; the beginning of her relationship with the mysteries of living.

This is a poem I wrote for her not long after she was born. It still holds true.

If Jesus Had Been a Girl

If Jesus had been a girl
we would await the birth
of the newborn queen,
Queen of the Jews,
like Esther, who saved
her people by sacrificing
and risking more than
just her lovely face.

If Jesus had been a girl
there would have been
no presentation in the
temple, no lost child at
the center of attention
with learned scholars.
Herod would not have
cared had she been born
—no threatened, paranoid
ego, no slain babies, no
kings from afar.

If Jesus had been a girl,
she would have been
our sister, but no one
would have listened.
And she would have
lived to a ripe old age,
begging at the temple
gates, speaking of God’s
radical, amazing love,
many thinking she was
crazy. End of story.

Yet you, little one, were
born a girl and I know
I have seen the salvation
of my soul. For God’s glory
is revealed in your face and
in the face of every baby.
To see your face is like
seeing the face of God.

Joy to the world,
for you have come to earth
and given me a second


Andy said...

What a fantastic story.
Meaningful rites of passage are sorely lacking in this day and age; but not in your home. Well done, my friend.

Jan said...

You celebrated your daughter. What a sharing. So nice.

Cynthia said...

I'm still trying to get my head around it. Even though childhood is the shortest time of our lives, it's the only way I've really known her. And in many ways she still is a child. But like I said, it's the beginning of so much of her life as a woman.