Sunday, December 03, 2006

Thinking About Bosoms

Lately, I’ve been thinking about bosoms. Now, before you get all bent out of shape and decide to tattle on me to Sister Mary Martha, I’m not thinking about them in the lecherous sense. After all, I have a bosom myself. So does the patriarch Abraham, as we read in Luke 16. So does my grandmother, Helen.

My grandmother is going to be 92 years old this March. When I think about the sheer amount of years she has lived, and how many beginnings and endings she has known in her lifetime, my mind boggles. Born in 1915, she has been witness to more advancements in technology than in any other period in our history. She has seen the Great Depression, 2 World Wars, the birth of the television and the first man on the moon, just to name a few. After raising her own two sons, she also raised me from birth. If you ask her how she is feeling on any given day, she will tell you, with a tired smile, that “the old, gray mare aint what she used to be”. Although her body is arthritic and stiff, and her parts are getting rusty, her mind remains sharp and her memory solid. Although she may not be able to remember what she had for breakfast by dinnertime, she can remember things like being a child in the 20’s growing up in Chicago, her first date with my grandpa, her marriage at 19 (they eloped at St. Peter’s in downtown Chicago in defiance of her family!) and the birth of her kids. She is an amazing lady.

This little woman who now barely stands 4 and one half feet tall is a giant in my eyes. She has taught me most of what I know about real love. I suppose a better way of putting it might be that I believe in love and know that it does exist because of the example of my grandmother.

She herself was raised by her grandparents, a Scottish grandfather and an Irish grandmother. She has an entire laundry list of “old wives tales” and sayings that are a mix of Scottish, Irish and Catholic, Pre-Vatican II family superstitions. For example, I am 36 years old and still cannot put a pair of shoes on a table for fear of bringing bad luck into the house. If your right palm itches, scratch it on wood and put it in your pocket and you’ll be sure to receive money from someone that day. Ignore it if it is your left hand; you will just wind up with a kiss from a fool. And always, always pray to St. Anthony for any lost item and he will help you find it in no time.

Although my grandmother has always been petite, I can remember crawling into her lap and resting my head on her chest, which was always warm and ample and comfortable. My grandmother carried everything, from money, to tissues, to safety pins, in her brassiere, affectionately referred to as her “bosom”. I remember being a teenager and searching for a pencil and being absolutely astonished to watch her pull one out from that amazing place where she stored all the little necessities of life. I remember being embarrassed beyond words when, one morning going to school she safety-pinned a dear 5 dollar bill for a field trip on the inside of my own pre-teen brassiere so that I wouldn’t lose it and bursting into tears when the teacher asked me to turn it in. How to retrieve it in front the class and especially mean old Tony Lupee who would no doubt tease me mercilessly about it for the rest of 8th grade and possibly my entire life?????

When I was very small, she would lay me down for a nap with her in her bed and pull from her bosom a rosary and teach me to say the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary” and my guardian angel prayer. She kept bobby pins there for my hair, which was always a mess of curls and frizz. She kept phone numbers and shoelaces in her bosom and quarters there too and would always slip me one in church before mass to light a candle for my poor dead mother’s soul. As I grew older I started to wonder why she bothered with a purse at all. She had absolutely no qualms about slipping her hand into the neck of her blouse to retrieve whatever it was she needed. By the time I came into her life she had become such a pro at it so that if you blinked you missed it entirely and before you could say “Gram, I need a….” , there she was holding whatever it was out to you with a smile.

Love is like that in my opinion. It anticipates its beloved’s needs and adorns itself accordingly. It keeps the interests of the loved one close to its heart.

Now that we live across the country from one another, I find that she can still anticipate when I am feeling overwhelmed by life, or in need of an “I love you”. She always seems to call exactly at the right moment, to give me comfort and a reality check in the process. And there always seems to be an envelope from her in my mailbox with a few bucks in it, when a few bucks are hard to come by. I am saddened and humbled to realize that not everyone is so fortunate to have been raised by someone who truly loves them.

In the bible, we read about Abraham’s Bosom, that lovely place where Lazarus, after a life of misery and pain, is carried to by the angels. In contrast, there is a rich man who is “buried in hell” after death. It is this same Bosom which Augustine, in his eloquent and charming way, writes of with regard to his friend Nebridius “Whom, not long after our conversion and regeneration by Thy Baptism, being also a faithful member of the Church Catholic, and serving Thee in perfect chastity and continence amongst his people in Africa, his whole house having through him first been made Christian, didst Thou release from the flesh; and now he lives in Abraham's bosom. Whatever that be, which is signified by that bosom, there lives my Nebridius, my sweet friend, and Thy child, O Lord, adopted of a freed man: there he liveth. For what other place is there for such a soul?”

My babies love to be held against my chest and I love to hold them there. Now as we enter Advent, I think of Our Lady cradling the baby Jesus to her bosom on that Holy Night when she and St. Joseph had the beautiful and mysterious privilege of adoring Him all to themselves for a short time. Before the shepherds and the wise men came to worship Him, before His presentation, His growth, His ministry and His destiny were fulfilled, they held them to their chests in the quiet and safety of the manger. Before anything, He was placed in the heart of a family and given parents to love Him.

This Christmas (and truly at all times) we should pray specifically for families and that for children who are unloved and unwanted. We should see in every person the child they once were, and know that they have a Father in heaven who, regardless of their state in life or even their cooperation with His grace, loves them beyond our understanding and desires to cradle us all to His Sacred Heart. This includes the criminal, the hedonist, the sourpuss, the liar, thief and the depraved one. One day, that person’s Father will take an accounting of how you loved His child on earth.


Blogger said...

Lord the bless and keep the bosom of your dear grandmother, your own, the place where the Sacred Heart of Jesus resides and where the beloved Apostle laid his head and all bosoms of purity and good will.

Lovely post.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Mikala said...

Thanks Owen!

8:04 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Martha said...

Maybe by this time she could use a purse for Christmas.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Mikala said...

LOL Good idea Sister!

(Alright,who tattled on me????)

12:05 PM  
Blogger The Kitchen Madonna said...

Beautifully told! Bravissimo! Reminds me of my grandmother Elizabeth (pronounced Luzbuth in East Texas) and her bosom and what she advised me about mine, I"ll never forget.
Kitchen Madonna

9:52 PM  
Blogger Barb, sfo said...

That was sweet.
And I got a smile out of the "shoes on the table" thing. My family believes that one also! I'd never heard of anyone else who had, and my husband was starting to think that Mom had made it up...

9:18 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Mikala, I have this sort of relationship with my grandma too. She's 78 or so (I lose track), and we call each other at least once a week. Invariably, our reply on finding out who's on the other end is "I was just thinking of you!" I love how you use the image of a bosom and make it sweet, the way it is intended. You have given me much food for thought in this post, and I thank you for sharing your wisdom! :)

6:39 AM  
Blogger Laura H. said...

I read your writings and wonder why I bother to open my mouth. You say everything so eloquently. Ignorant children like myself have much to learn from the wiser like you. I'm glad I found you (or that you found me, I suppose).

btw, your grandmother's story cracks me up. I've done it before.. but never with pencils or bobby pins or safety pins and certainly not with ALL of those! *giggles* That's great though. I'm glad you had someone like that in your life.

10:35 AM  

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