I am thinking of what it means to be divine, holy, sacred. When I stepped into St. Joe’s Key West last week to be quiet for a while before the first reading of my first novel I was struck by many things. The portrait of Mary in the vestibule first caught my eye-I had never seen it before nor such a direct image of her. I thought of the praise I spoke for my mother at her funeral.
I wanted to light three candles, one for each of my grandmothers and one for my mother, to thank them and to ask them to be with me at the bookstore for the reading, but there were only two candle holders available so I lit one candle with the names of my grandmas on my lips and the other talking to Mom alone. I stepped back and noticed that Mom’s was shining more brightly than all the rest, which it did for the entire time I sat in the front pew of the empty church, and then while I noticed the library of the sanctuary for the first time. When I would show my sister the photos of it the next morning, she would point to the candlesticks on the altar and say, “Those are from Grandma. They were put there for her funeral and have been there ever since.”
On my way out, I noticed the 8th Station of the Cross in a way I never had before. I have memories of spending Good Friday afternoons in the church, praying at each station. I thought of those women who supported Jesus and mostly I kept looking at those two words together: Holy Women. I thought of all the women in my life and how much they have supported me and how rarely I have seen those two words together: Holy and Women. I went to the cemetery and stood over the ground where my beloved mother’s body lays in rest and noticed the shadow of mine over hers. I remembered those precious moments putting the last touches on the novel with Mom at my side, often entering them with one hand as I held hers with the other.
My niece gave me a manicure and told me that I moaned in pleasure at the same points in the hand massage that my mom had. My niece then gently washed and styled my hair. Her daughters watched me get ready for the big night. I remembered my niece, my sister, and I all very close to my mother’s body as we did her hair, at the funeral home before the wake.
When I walked into the bookstore on Main Street of my hometown, the woman who owns it, and the women who work there, and some very dear women friends who arrived before I did opened their arms to me then led me to a table they had set with wine and food for the guests. My sisters were there, and many members of my mom’s family. Women and men. There were women and men I had gone to grade school with, too, and high school, who had known me all my life, others who introduced themselves, and others who had become my friends in the five years I re-rooted there upon return from Europe.
I talked about this story about women, about identity, about abuse, about relationship, about a search for home. I talked, too, about the mother’s voice. My mother’s voice. Women’s voices. My voice. In conversation with women and men.
Women and men. Women and men. Women and men. Amen.
Here are some clips that my sister shot during the reading:
Watch more video clips of the reading here: