The Divine Hours of Lent

Today marks the one hundred and eighteenth anniversary of my mother’s birth. Today is also the third and last in a triad of commemorative this year of Our Lord 2008. In a way, I am glad of that fact. I’m not much, really, on anniversaries or dated remembrances. Oh, I may note them as they wander by, but I rarely stop and pay homage to them, much less give written thought to their having occurred. But somehow my mother’s birthday has always been the exception that established the rule.
She was a most unusual woman, which is part of why I am always struck on her birthday into a kind of reverence…not for her authority, for I don’t recall that she ever exercise authority much. She was too small, for one thing. Five feet, two inches in good shoes and always hopping up on the bottom hall step to grab my father around the neck and reach for a kiss she could otherwise never have managed to receive.
She was also not much better at being a traditional Norman Rockwell mother than was her own mother. I remember Grandma Porter, please understand, as the most fascinating adult I ever met, but not as a superb grandmother. Instead, she was simply a hugely satisfactory one. She never made me cookies, for instance, but she did buy me chocolate candy instead, and in great quantities. It was an enviable swap-off from my point of view. If I ever sat in Grandma’s lap, I don’t recall it; and I certainly can’t imagine such a thing, even now. She was a superb business woman, my mother’s mother, who spent considerable time in consultation with my father, her son-in-law, about what he should and should not be doing to see properly to the security and future of his–read: her–family, discussions that he seemed truly to desire and often to instigate. She was also as short as Mother and downright boney, to boot.
All of which is to say that Mother was the product of her mother, and there could never be any question about that. She kept the books in our house, and money was deployed according to her principles and under her oversight. If she ever held me on her lap, I can not remember that either. What I can and do remember, however, is many an afternoon or early evening of crawling up on the sofa beside her, laying my head in her lap, and having her stroke my hair with the most exquisitely delicious fondness. Unlike her mother, mine did bake cookies, but just not for me. They were instead perfected and accomplished delicacies (I was allowed the crumbs and the rejects.) made for social events having to do with my father’s career and professional duties. She was also, like Grandma, a book-reading, constantly inquisitive, always questioning genius who could render up a direct quote from Dickens or Shakespeare or Cicero or Gibbon with as much ease and accuracy as I can render up the names and birth dates of my children.
It was and is, in other words, the out-of-synch, non-conformist, near-aberrance of my matriarchs that I stop every February 12th to remark upon….not their impressive wills and sometimes outre actions, but their hard-core Christianity. My grandmother lived–and taught my mother to live–as one who considers constantly whether what has just been said or read is useful or accurate or worthy. If it is not, delete it from your consideration. If it is, hold it close, consider it, evaluate and confirm it, then integrate it into the rest of your treasure trove of truth. If you do that, both of them taught me, yours will be a persona of faith and you yourself will mature into a convicted follower of Jesus of Nazareth. I pray each February 12th, that what they have taught me I have indeed learned, or am by way of learning.
Oh, and by the way, my mother was born on her mother’s birthday. Today would have been one hundred and thirty-six for Grandmother Porter.

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