Family Album THE STACKS

Laughing & Crying

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some birthday Galette
for a French saint in shining armor.
** Linger to ponder the contradictions of brave deeds and fresh tears.
** Savor a last ½ cup reading a lovely essay about children and laundry, written by my mom.
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First Sip:

My 4th annual tribute to my mom.
And to Joan of Arc.

My mother with her sister
and an unidentified family baby

The selfsame well
from which your laughter rises
was oftentimes filled with your tears.

You are suspended like scales
between your sorrow and your joy.

Together they come,
and when one sits alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

– Kahlil Gibran 2


Slice of Cake:

Joan of Arc was an anomaly:
An untaught shepherd who led an army. A peasant who crowned a king.
But she was also a teenage girl—both fierce and tearful.

She was illiterate, and female…
She came from nowhere and gave everything.

– Mary Gordon 3

Joan’s family home
in Domrémy 4

Joan’s family owned a modest home with about 50 acres of land in Domrémy, France. 5

Her mother taught her to pray and
how to keep house, how to sew and spin.
As a child, Joan probably took her turn looking after
the family’s sheep and cattle. 3

When she left home,
Joan didn’t go alone. An older cousin was with her.
To explain her leaving, Joan lied to her parents.
(She told them she was going to help the cousin’s wife with a new baby.)3

Once she left home, Joan never saw her parents again.

She shouldn’t have been able to do what she did.
Ride at the head of an army.
Lead men into battle. Be victorious.

A year earlier, she hadn’t known how to ride a horse.
She’d practiced by riding on the backs of her father’s cattle…

She had never worn armor,
and the armor weighed sixty pounds…
She did what she did beside men who
had trained for it since early childhood.
…Boys began their knightly training at the age of four…
She had never studied tactics. She had never even seen a battle.

But she knew she was a warrior;
her voices told her she would lead men to victory.

– Mary Gordon 3

Happy 610th Birthday
** Jeanne d’Arc **

– born January 6, 1412
in Domrémy, France


Linger Awhile:

I’ve been thinking this week about contradictions.
About the flow back and forth between sadness and joy.

Laughing and crying
you know it’s the same release.

– Joni Mitchell 5

Joan of Arc was full of contradictions.
She was aggressive in both taunts and tactics.
She boasted that her sword gave ‘good buffets and good swipes.’

Yet she wept to see soldiers die—on both French and English sides.
Once she cradled the head of a dying English soldier,
encouraged him to give his last confession, and stayed with him as he died.3

Yet she spoke and acted as a warrior.

Here’s a note she wrote—or rather dictated, since Joan never learned to read—
addressed to none other than the regent of England and two of his high commanders.

I am chief-of-war.

I am here sent by God, the King of Heaven,
body for body, to drive you out of all France.
And if they will obey I will be merciful to them

The King of Heaven
will send greater strength to the Maid
than you will be able to bring up against her
and her good men-at-arms, and when it comes to blows,
it will be seen who has the better right of the God of Heaven.

– Joan of Arc

In her biography of Joan of Arc, Mary Gordon points out that
Joan signed her name Jhesu-Maria. Joan the Maid. (In French, it’s La Pucelle.)
And by doing so, she elevated herself above her humble background.

Her using the term “La Pucelle”
…was an inspired stroke.
It put her into a mythical context.
It erased the stigma of

her social inferiority and transformed her
from upstart to icon.
– Mary Gordon3

A later note again shows Joan’s contradictions.

This one she delivered by having it wrapped around a crossbow bolt
and dramatically shot into the Bastille of Les Tourelles.
Immediately, an Englishman inside shouted,
“Here is the latest news from the whore of Armagnac.”
And Joan burst into tears.3

Neither her boasting, nor her contradictions, nor her vulnerable tears
hurt her reputation with her men.

Joan’s tears,
rather that weakening her, as they have done modern women,
seem to underscore her innocence…her virginity…
a physical manifestation of her specialness…

Perhaps they cleanse the stain of her boastfulness.
Girls aren’t supposed to brag; they are supposed to cry.

– Mary Gordon3

When, as a Catholic infant, I was given the middle name Jeanne,
Jeanne d’Arc became my patron saint.
And a more contradictory intercessor I couldn’t have asked for.

But I’ve loved reading about her tears as well as her bravery.
She was tough, strong, resilient—and soft of heart.
A very human saint, after all.


“Half Cup More”

My mother knew hardship and plenty of tears in her life.
Yet she loved to laugh.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my mother, even more than usual,
because this week marks 4 years since she died.

I recently came across some essays my mother wrote over the years.
In one she bemoans that even young people didn’t seem to laugh as much any more.
And then—which seems very unusual for my tech-savvy mom—she blamed technology.
‘Everyone was looking at their phone or texting,’ she wrote.

In another essay, she sounds happier. And more like the mom I remember.
It’s a beautifully written slice of life. About our laundry room.

As I enter my laundry room,
the sun coming through the south window
is reflected by the daffodil yellow walls and
wraps me in a welcoming blanket of light and warmth…

The washing machine stands stiff and white and new,
having recently replaced the faithful old coppertone friend

that had seen me through more than twenty years of daily laundry,
swishing and whirring its merry song until all the children were grown.
This new one now agitates, then hesitates
and seems to wait for my approval;
finally, it whirls into a determined spin…

The door of the room has a ladder of dates and names
that tell the story of each child’s growth.
It also holds the round, chipped, and cracked mirror
that has climbed the door as the children grew.

Now I seem to see reflected in it
the tears and laughter of children
stretching their way to maturity.

I look again at the sun shining through the window
on plants and cat, on freshly ironed clothes, and once again
the warmth enfolds me and fills this room that has known
the love of a growing family.

– Elizabeth M Finnegan
November 1985 7


Take-Away Box

Those who have treasured saints
have done so because they provide a dream of accompaniment,
a hope of advocacy, a special connection based on
…a profession, a name, a date of birth.

What kind of saint could Joan be?

The patroness of the vivid life
…of passionate action taken against ridiculous odds

Her words and actions are stronger than the seal set on her
by some men in Rome. She leaves behind a record that,
if looked at closely, hops and leaps…in a series of fits and starts.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute we can give her is to
acknowledge that any understanding of her will be partial
and that so compelling a figure will constantly
demand new visions, new revisions…
She will not stand still for us.

– Mary Gordon 3


Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…

notes & footnotes

This photo of my mother (on the right) & her sister Theresa
caught them laughing, while some unnamed family baby cries.
It was taken at their brother Bud’s birthday party
September 1992 ?

This quote by Kahlil Gibran
is from his poem On Joy and Sorrow
found in The Prophet

from Joan of Arc
a biography by Mary Gordon

Photo credit:
The house where Joan of Arc was born and raised
is now a museum in Domremy, France.
This photo is from the Domremy tourism website.

from Joan of Arc: Her Story
by Régine Pernoud and Marie-Véronique Clin

from People’s Parties
lyrics by
Joni Mitchell

from The Laundry Room
an essay by my mom
Elizabeth M Finnegan
November 1985


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© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

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