Family Album THE STACKS

January 6

First Sip

“Listen to all the advice you want, say ‘thank you’
then do as you damn well please.”

My mom said this was the best parenting advice she’d ever gotten.
I was a young mom at the time, and she told me
that an ‘old woman’ had said it to her
when she was a young mom.

Slice of Cake

Mark Twain (of all people)
wrote a biography of Joan of Arc (of all people).

It’s an odd little book. It’s a hagiography in two ways. Literally, because it is the story of the life of a saint. And figuratively, because it was written with all praise and no critique. As I remember the book, Twain focuses on her childhood home and her childhood friends (perhaps not surprising, since she didn’t live much past her childhood), more so than her military campaigns. But I’ve read that he spent years researching her life and believed this to be his best book.

Everybody needs a hero.

This Jan 6 marks the birthday of Joan of Arc,
special patron of martyrs and captives.

drawn by a fan in 1429

Here is a doodle of Joan of Arc
drawn in the margins of the Protocol of the Parlement of Paris,
by a French judge named
Clement de Fauquembergue.
The date is May 10, 1429—less than

three weeks before Joan was killed.

As a Catholic-baptized infant,
I was given her name
—and so she became
my patron saint, too.

Happy 607th birthday
* ** Jeanne d’Arc ** *

“She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; …
She was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was

expected of no one;
She gave her great mind to great thoughts and great purposes when other great minds

wasted themselves upon…poor ambitions; …
She was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; …
She was a rock of convictions in…an age of fawnings and servilities;
She was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation; …
She was all these things in an age when crime was the common business of lords and princes, and when the highest personages in Christendom were able to astonish even that infamous era and make it stand aghast.”

― Mark Twain,
in
Joan of Arc

Linger Awhile

My mom with her baby nephew and her high school sweetheart Johnny

Elizabeth was thinking of marriage.
This was Northern Michigan in 1943.
Her two oldest sisters had both married and had children.
Her sweetheart’s name was Johnny and she was very much in love.

As Elizabeth told it, both her and Johnny’s families rejected any idea of marriage between them. Even though they were all Catholic. His family was Polish. Hers was Irish. And that was too big a divide for them.

Unable to gain their parents’ approval, she and Johnny broke up.
Elizabeth graduated high school. WWII ended. And Elizabeth moved as far away as she could afford to go.

There are a million stories I could tell about my mom. I chose this one about high school and her broken heart because it seems to me that this was—at least partly—what gave my mother something that we all saw in her: Her generous, open, inclusive-of-everybody heart.

January 6 marks one year since my mom died.

Everybody needs a hero.
My mother Elizabeth will always be mine.

“Half Cup More”

My mom and me in 1963

Take-Away Box

“It was a good thing that she
got herself into this other school. It showed that there were
other worlds besides the world she had been born into
and that these other worlds were not
unattainable.”

– Betty Smith, in
  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn




Coda:

Joan of Arc
in Paris

I was in Paris in March 2019
and made a quick pilgrimage to
the Basilique Ste Jeanne d’Arc.

I lit a candle there for my mom.

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