When I was a little girl I have an entire room to myself. When I was very little it was painted pink, & I have a picture of me at probably a year old standing proudly my crib bright pink walls all around me. When I got older my room became a sanctuary the place where I could just be myself. When I was a teenager I became very involved in the Catholic Charismatic movement and it was then that I first started to have a small prayer space. Over the years I was able to have a space or table or something for myself for my religious things.
The years I was trapped with the monster it was hard to claim the right to pick my own clothing, never mind my own prayer space. Nevertheless, the monster would always allow one if for no other reason than to have something to point at when screaming at me that the Pope had made it clear I was to obey him. By then of course I had left the charismatics, as the monster detested my involvement with any group that might teach me I had any master but him.
It was, ironically, when I was with my second husband that I had the most freedom of religion and space. An Abenaki Native American who worshipped the Norse pagan gods, Allister Crowley, and animal spirits, he never once attempted to subvert my faith in God. There are several blog entries worth of funny stories when one or the other of us misunderstood something in the other person’s faith, but overall what I remember is being able to have whatever I wanted for statues and pictures, relics and rosaries, books and more.
Like everything else in my life that was upended when I developed MS in 2006, my relationships with my kids and my faith changed. With days upon days stuck in bed or to exhausted to get off the couch, I had the ability to spend hours in prayer and meditation. My prayer space occupied a floor to ceiling space about 30 inches by 36 inches from the ivory lace curtains framing a needlepoint of The Lord’s Prayer to the wood file cabinet that held the liturgical color table cloths, candles, and what not.
The house had come with a large corner bookcase that by 2008 was groaning under the weight of every Catholic and Christian book I had found at used bookstores and thift shops. During this time I had carefully saved for a statue of Mary as Our Lady of The Homeless, depicting her with a toddler Jesus,heavy cloak and viel hastily thrown on, as she and Joseph ran from Herod’s bloodbath into Egypt. My days frequently saw me praying the office (daily prayers of a religious) while standing or sitting before the prayer space, feeling for all the world like Mary was quite simply another of my Moms, sharing triumph, questions, problems, and support with me.
In addition to The Lord’s Prayer, I had a large print of Jesus. It was familiar to every Protestant who entered my home, with a faint smile on his face, strong nose, full, yet trimmed beard and shoulder length loose flowing hair. To me, it has always symbolized the very human Jesus out on the roads preaching, sharing, and being full of joy. Of course, it would have been a fine space just as it was, but back then I was still very bothered and hurt when family and friends made disparaging remarks that my Old Catholic grace at meals wasn’t really Catholic and so on. It only took two times for Romans to look at the prayer space and comment that I had the wrong Jesus hung up, and I gave in and removed my sick call crucifix from where I could look on it in bed and place it next to the statues of Mary, St. Francis, and Infant Jesus of Padua.
I designated one wall section for the pictures of the kids, and plagerizing from Lillian Too’s book “168 Feng Shui Ways To Declutter Your Home” made sure that the prayer space reflected the Kid’s Wall, and vise versa.
My kids. I know people who will only acknowledge those children in a family that have some shared DNA with them. Being an American, I respect that they have the right to do that.
I am not like that. If I had legal custody of you for 6 weeks or 6 years, you are my kid. If I adopted you, you are my kid. If you sprang out of my body, you are my kid. If I was married or it’s equivalent to one of your parents, you are my kid. Period. Once I let a child into my heart, my heart grows and there is forever after a spot that belongs to that child alone.
Growing up, Troy, Mike, Ron – just some of the kids of my parent’s siblings – were cousins. Dawn, Cathy, Petra – children of my Mother’s cousins were in the same catagory: cousin. My Mother’s best friend from her days as a new nurse, Maggie Rainville, married and adopted Theresa and Leo. Not only were they cousins, Maggie was Aunt, Ed was an Uncle, and my brother and I got the funniest, sweetest Memere and Pepere to boot. Over the years, my family – and how I define family – has been one where once you are in, pretty much only a divorce takes you out. If you are a child, often even a divorce cannot break the bond.
I am writing this on Saturday, August 10, 2013 and unless God decides to send an another one I have a total of 15 kids. I am very blessed that many of them are still in touch with me, especially the kids I fostered. My heart aches for the one, Briana Rose, that may not even know I exist, but I pray often that someday she finds me and I can show her a photo of her tiny head being caressed by her sister. Everytime I see an update on a facebook, get sent a link to a new photo by an ex, or have the ability to hug them I am reminded that of all the things I have done, the time I spent parenting was the most important.
Lord only knows how many grands there are. I thank God that because of my relationship with my ex Carl Johnson, I have had the joy of Michael, Nicole, their kids Mikey Jr, Tasha, and Isabelle, and my ex-steps Kayla and Mary to love and spoil. My granddaughters Tasha and Isabelle are such a joy to me, and it was surely God who brought about my early entry into Grandmotherhood while I was still mobile enough to play and hold and read to them. I hope when the others have kids that they will bring them by to see Babka, even if I am frozen in that mute paralysed world of end stage MS. I hope they crawl on me in my hospital bed, tell me stories in babytalk, and run matchbox cars over my arms. I know that the hearing and the sense of others being around are the last things to go, and I promise you unborn grands that I will know you are there and I will love you just as much.
Now, my life has turned again, and every other weekend the tiny cottage by the lake is filled with the sounds of an active 10 year old boy I adore, who loves sports and fishing and nickelodeon. Fitting him, his stuff, his father’s stuff, my stuff, the ministry stuff, the facebook and blog stuff, the filmaking stuff, a 9 pound dauchhound-chihuahua mix, the craft stuff, the food to feed them the 3 squares and me the massive amounts to create 1760 vegetarian dairy free calories a day, and enough medical equipement for a small hospital is…well, challenging.
So, two of the sacrificed items were the big prayer corner and the expansive kid wall. Actually, wall space in general is pretty hard to come by, especially in the kitchen with 2 doors and a whopping 6 windows in a space that would barely hold a car and three trash cans.
This photo is the beginning of what CAN be done. With only 11 inches between my side of the hospital bed and the wall, there was no way a traditional nightstand would fit. Such a nightstand wouldn’t have worked anyway. I spend an aweful lot of time in my hospital bed.
Sometimes because I am waiting for medicine and hot packs to uncontract muscles in my ankle or leg or hands. Sometimes because I am waiting for an aide or Brian to help me up. Sometimes, the pain, nausea, fatigue, headaches, or spasms just make it so difficult to be up and out I just ride out whatever storms of symptoms I am dealing with that hour. Last are the times my nurse or my doctor order me to rest for my own good.
Consequently, there are medical supplies, tools, food, water, books, medicines, pens, pencils, magnifying glasses, cell phone, tablet, reading glasses, notebooks, tissues, diaper wipes, post it notes, and usually a reacher that all need to be within the grip of a woman – often with claws instead of hands – who refuses to stop living just because of being bed bound.
The bookcases my grandfather made for my grandmother long after he went blind from macular degeneration fit. Everytime I look at them I can remember how he told me he cut the boards on his big saw in the basement by feel. Did I mention he once decided he wanted a picket fence, so he made one? He literally cut each individual picket. If he could do carpentry blind, darnit, I could at least keep my facebook group up to date and get some reading done!
In the corner, there was space that while in my bed I cannot reach. However, if I merely want to see what is there, all I have to do is put the tablet camera on, tilt the screen, and…voila! There are my kids. There are the relics, my icon of Mary, the photo of Brian reading my first article for Convergent Streams. There is the pink rosary I got for my first communion. There is the collection of sayings done in beautiful calligraphy. The words are reserved, but it doesn’t matter. When I am alone and lonely, they are right there. When I want to look at something while I pray, there are saints and momentos. Mary is there, Jesus is there, and I once again have, reflected in the screen, a space of my own.