First appeared in H.E.R.Magazine, 6/99
There's a faded photograph in my childhood album of a curious eighteen-month-old girl, toddling along the esplanade by the Hudson River, intently examining a pair of sunglasses clutched in her little fist. A few paces behind, an older woman is simultaneously smiling and squinting in the strong noonday sun. True to the timeworn maxim, the picture bespeaks volumes about my relationship with my father's mother.
Woven into the tapestry of our blood bond are luminous threads of the Goddess, the crucible of feminine creative power that lies dormant in all women until we begin to remember and reconnect with our inner wisdom, to reclaim our primal selves. Since ancient times, this archetypal Great Mother has symbolized the indwelling mystery of what it means to be woman, to make the transformative leap from hunger to wholeness.
Whenever those sunglasses first come off for us, we squint in surprise; the brilliance saturates the retina. Once we wake to our wildness, however, wearing it as everyday truth usually takes awhile. The recognition feels raw and new; each of us must eat the apple all over again.
Although the language of the Great Mother was as foreign to my grandmother as Sanskrit, she embodied Her wisdom through her love. It's no coincidence that her name was Eve.
Eve wasn't conventionally religious. Yet, through her intuitive knowing, she joined me to the sacred.
When I was in first grade, a "minute of silence" was instituted nationwide in all secondary schools. At a loss as to what to think or do with myself during this interminable length of time, I turned to the woman I called Evie for advice.
She suggested, "You can say to yourself, God bless Mommy and Daddy, and my darling little brother Hugh, and Evie and Bernie, and Grandma and Grandpa' (Mom's parents)." I had trouble with the "darling little brother" part, but I followed her suggestion, adding, "And God bless the world." This was my introduction to the blessing way, and I repeated the silent benediction, faithfully, long after I was required to do so in school.
Evie sourced her life from a creative center that I took for granted as a child, even as I delighted in its expression. Whereas some women bought patterns and sewed their own clothes, Evie was expert with Rit dye and a scissors. An outfit "off the rack" would transmogrify under her deft fingers and nimble mind.
An accomplished card player, she could trump an overly inquisitive stranger with her sagacious wit. One signature story concerned her long, lacquered fingernailsreal nails, painted with polish from Woolworth's and used to the onslaught of daily housework. While Evie was on a cruise with my grandfather, a to-the-manner-born passenger admired her nails and wanted to know where she had them done, the name of the color used, etc., etc. Playing her hand, Evie replied casually, "Oh, I have my own bottle at Elizabeth Arden." Truthfulness tempered by humor, when someone attempts to breach your boundaries.
(During my own initiatory journey, I dreamed that a woman's voice called sharply to me from a cellar full of garbage, "Hello! It's Elizabeth Arden!" The message was clear: reawaken to your inner and outer beauty, come home to the truth of who you are.)
In simple ways, my grandmother taught me about non-attachment, the importance of right speech, and appreciating one's essence. I offhandedly complimented a dress she was wearing and was taken aback when she promptly offered it to me. Much later, I discovered that in other cultural traditions it is customary to give someone a possession of yours that she admires. More indigenous wisdom from the well. As I learned to dive beneath appearances and give voice to the qualities I valued in others, I came to understand how such honoring increases another's inner resources, because what is intrinsic is never depleted by being given away, but amplified.
This great gushing source of sustenance was especially evident when, as a youngster, I would sleep over at my grandparents' New York apartment. Our private pajama parties always followed what Evie called a "red-letter day" of girlhood bliss. We might shop for a new toy, then lunch at The Automat (where sandwiches and slices of pie appeared magically from behind little windowed slots in response to inserted coins, like a laundromat for food), maybe visit The Central Park Zoo. Before bed, the three of us would play Scrabble (or cards, of course!), and sometimes Evie would spin stories that married reality and imagination.
On family picnics, Evie obligingly ate the yolks from my hard-boiled eggs, which would have been surreptitious bird food otherwise. The significance of her eating the egg's core (congealed sunlight, contained fire) only began to resonate within me years later, as my own quest to embody my female quintessence intensified. I dreamed the egg, I felt it as substance in my belly. To yoke is to unify. Eating the yolk means accepting the nourishment of union with the Divine Feminine energy within yourself.
Other grandmas bake bread or cookies to symbolically initiate their granddaughters. Mine baked me in the Mother oven of feminine possibility, passion and power. They are equally sacramental.
It's been twenty-one yearshalf my lifesince she made her transition. As I step ever more purposefully into the truth of who I am, the luminous threads of the Goddess become the living raiment of She-Who-Knows. I wear them with humble pride, and joy.
Evie, thank you for your enduring gift. I love you.
As a "midwife for the soul" Amara Rose offers life purpose coaching, talks, CDs, e-courses, playshops, and an inspirational monthly newsletter, "What Shines." Please visit LiveYourLight.com to learn more. Contact Amara at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call: 1-800-862-0157 within the USA.
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