Many years have passed since Grandmother left us. I now have my own prayer table. The Mary statue graces the center of my own “altar.” Her original, beautiful colors have faded, and she has been broken and reglued more times than I can count. She is discolored, disfigured, and just plain old. But she has not lost any of the power my grandmother’s nightly prayers instilled in her to perform miracles, hear prayers, and empower a believer with holy energy. Every time I look at her I feel the bountiful endowment of God’s grace, the myriad of unending prayers. Some of sorrow and others of comfort, peace and gratitude, poured out before her presence by my grandmother. One day, when I pass on, perhaps this humble and rather pitiful-appearing treasure will end up in a heap in some obscure place, but the comfort that her presence has bestowed on the young and old can never be diminished.
No matter how many faces life has sewn upon the ragamuffin I am, they are all still only aspects of the self that I have become. Just as I used to assign personas and roles to rag dolls in the hours of make-believe, so life has assigned me many roles: bastard child, daughter, granddaughter, half- sister, white trash, ward of the state, foster child, retard, good girl/bad girl, whore, wife, ex-wife, stewardess, mother, step-mother, grandmother, student, graduate, citizen, alcoholic, victim, perpetrator, professional woman, psychotherapist, adjunct professor, friend, colleague, cancer survivor, cancer-thriver, wise woman, and crone. Even so, even now, when I have moments that I feel gnarled and broken, unraveled and undone, I can still sit before my own prayer table and imagine the soothing touch of my grandmother’s hands sewing me back together again.
Now that I am old like the Mary statue, my essential self far exceeds the masks that I have worn.
How sad I feel when I read quotes by Marilyn (or should I call her Norma Jeane?). Her words indicate that she never got to experience her own deep longing for redemption. Instead, she was left with only her masks and the roles she felt required to fill.
“I kept driving past the theatre with my name on the marquee. Was I excited. I wished they were using ‘Norma Jeane so that all the kids at the home and schools who never noticed me could see it.”— Marilyn