Thursday, April 4, 2013

Denomination of Daughters

{on a bench outside Jefferson's Monticello}

Susie is my Mother-in Law.  She calls me "Be-fessica,"  or "The Incomparable Jessica."

I can't think what I might have done, or been, or said to earn the latter.

The former came by way of birthing one Jonah, who for lack of a 'j' sound early in life called me Be-fessica, and himself Fwonah.

Susie says I am a daughter to her as much as any of the five she bore herself.  What can I do with this?  What do I say between the space of good fortune and friendship that is mine and hers.  I love her.

I love you.

Susie thanks my Mother for Susie's ability to love me as she does.  This is why - my Mother loved my Dad's mother as only a Ruth loves a Naomi.  All my years of growing up I saw my Mom wash dishes in my Grandma's kitchen.  I watched her laugh with my grandparent's, and talk, and seek advice, and accept help when help was all that would keep our family from glimpsing the edge.

To love the mother of the man you marry is a good plan.   And Susie is right, it was seeing my Mom's love - determined and constant, reaching out beyond herself which planted in me the expectation that when I walked into the Rasmussen home for the first time, I was coming to join, not to divide.

Matt told me early on that his Mother's only advice to him about who to marry was to make sure he chose an orphan.  I am hardly an orphan.  Oh grief, I am a Leavitt - a passel of kin, a parcel of generations that claim me up tight.  And despite that moment of hesitation at the Social Security Office just weeks after we married, I was able to slide out of the name that had cradled me for 23 of my own years and who knows how may hundreds of the years that came before me.  I tried on Rasmussen, filling out the paper and passing it over to the woman at the desk who seemed desensitized to the transformation taking place in front of her.

I am a woman.  I am a Jessica.  She is a Susie.  We both tucked away the name we brought to courtship and wed ourselves to a husband and a name.  Father - Son - Grandson.  Someday Jonah will  offer the same name to another woman, who, like us,  a daughter in her own clan, will find that there is room and to spare under the shelter of this name.

Funny how we women go about trading a name for a name, an identity for an identity.  One might be tempted to think that the moving about and the scramble of families and generations and alphabetical segregation would leave us feeling isolated.  But I don't.  I feel like the jumble of appellations untangles into one metronymic name that lets us be sisters, that lets us love.


shelley said...

So many times I have said, "There aren't words". I can only cry. There aren't words meaningful enough, or precise enough, to describe the depth and strength of emotion and spiritual understanding and connection that I sometimes feel. These strong feelings are always tied to my family, be it earthly or heavenly. I am so grateful that you are part of that family. And every time you write I realize that there ARE words. I may not be able to find the right ones, but YOUR words so simply, carefully, and beautifully say what I feel. Thank you for sharing them with me.

Emily said...

I love this. I love you. I cannot think of a word I have more affection for than "sister." Thanks for letting me claim you.

nikki said...

That is so beautiful. Lots for me to think about. Thanks!

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