Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's a Girl to Do?

I've found a new author - Judith Merkle Riley - who writes intelligent historical novels. These are the kind of novels I read even when I am walking around - head down. The kind of stories that make me sad when they end. The latest is "The Water Devil."The heroine in this story is Margaret of Ashbury, wife of Lord Gilbert and mother of three. Near the end of the book she writes about herself as not a 'real lady', for she 'sees' the water lady as a person, not a devil. (long story - you have to read it to understand fully) But listen to this.

"Madame Agathe really is a true lady, I thought. She sees the pond-thing as a devil. Only the uncouth, the untutored, the wild things see the water woman as she is. Maybe some day even the children won't see her anymore. And me, I must be made wrong, for I sat with her, all finny-wet and slippery, and we made discourse, even if it was only in a dream. Lord, Lord, why didn't you make me a complete spotless lady, too? Then i would see things aright, the way they're supposed to be. And while you were doing it, great Lord of the Universe, you could have given me golden hair as well [insert: made me willowy as well], which would have been ever so much more admirable. But God, who is often enigmatic, didn't choose to answer this time, either."

I read this paragraph, laughed, plopped the book into my lap and said to myself, "I feel exactly the same way!!!" Now, please know that I fully understand the paradoxical nature of this writing - simply beautiful in its complexity. But I too, wonder why I've seen things differently all my life. I even TRY to see them the way I am SUPPOSED to, but to no effect. I am mainly talking about the Christian faith, but other things too.

Let me illustrate. When I was about the tender age of eight, Wednesday night was Pioneer Girls club followed by prayer meeting. We always went. Six kids, mom and dad. My mom would work in the library during club time and then together we joined the meeting time. One night only my mom and I were there, for some forgotten reason. And another thing, mom had forgotten to bring her hat, required attire for sitting in the service.

After Pioneer Clubs we met in the lobby and she mentioned that she didn't have a hat, and I poo-pooed it ... saying, "Oh just come on in. You're okay." Already I could convince a person against their best wisdom. Mom sat three benches behind me and I plunked myself down with friends.

Well, wouldn't you know it - the sermon was on the passage of scripture that clearly says women should have heads covered in service. I found the whole thing terribly funny. As the sermon began I turned around to see mom turning beet red. Being the only woman there without a hat was a little awkward, I knew. So I kept turning to smile at her, as tears poured down her face.

Mom and I left quickly - as you can imagine, and once we got in the car I regaled her with a mock sermon, mimicking the preacher man, berating women for not wearing hats. Mom laughed so hard she almost drove off the road.

Thirty two years later (I am not exaggerating here although I am very capable of exaggerating) mom and I were in a Swiss Chalet in Hamilton Ontario and we met that preacher, whom we both knew. After saying hello, he stuttered a bit and then apologized to my mom about what he called, "The Hat Incident." Thirty two years later it bothered him enough to bring it up.

We laughed again after he left. It was our only defense.

Now, a hat can be done well. It can be fun! (Note my darling Zoe in the photo.) But the point is. I live in a community that has a way of seeing things, a way that seems to be universally accepted ... and when I cannot see them quite that way I sometimes feel wrong or ill fitting. But maybe I am just made different. Maybe I just didn't grow up. This book helped me smile at my own difference. I claim my child-ness! I recommend it. (Child-ness AND the book!)


Krissi said...

You know back in the Romantic and Victorian eras (and probably even further back from that), blonde haired women in novels were portrayed as calm, peaceful, proper, and passive, and perhaps not too stupid, but never too smart either. But dark haired women were always wild and different and a little out of control and sometimes abnormally (for the time) intelligent. Read a novel from the Victorian or Romantic eras. In Pride and Prejudice, the sweet, quiet oldest sister is blonde, but Elizabeth, with her quick wit, independent spirit, and above average intelligence, is dark haired. No coincidence. In Thomas Hardy, the difference between light and dark hair is sometimes a bit out of control. I'll keep my dark hair any day. ;)

I like that you think differently. It makes me feel a little less isolated.

Kate Patterson said...

This is a great posting - a book I will put on my to read list for sure.

I also want to note that I went to Pioneer Club too when I was young! Is that a Canadian program?

Great to read your blog now!

I do not update mine anymore, lol. Fell off the band wagon - but I may start posting again.

Mrs Moose said...

I love this post, MI. The part about you and your mom - a treasure.

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