One of the best Easters in my memory is the year my exhusband walked out on me. I was shaking and trying to get ready for Easter with my more conservative side of my family, feeling sick to my stomach. I would be the only one of the cousins who could not stick the landing on her marriage. While none of them blamed me, I couldn’t bear the feeling of foreignness or pity that would follow. My sister was traveling for her job and I had no idea how to articulate this feeling to anyone.
My mother came to pick me up and took one look at me and her innate MomSense took over. I couldn’t articulate the weird mix of anxiety, shame and Otherness I was feeling very well. Retrospectively, I think she was able to figure it out though. She immediately claimed a migraine and made our regrets and decided we would go to a local restaurant. Which of course was jammed full of people with reservations. She decided we would sit at the bar and have a glass of wine and eat there. You have to understand, my mom is equal parts rebel and Italian-American Emily Gilmore. I don’t think she had sat to eat at a bar in her life. She had probably sat at a bar, period, >10 times. But we sat at the bar, exiles in our homeland. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember having the same giddy skipping-school feeling and how we laughed together about defying tradition and expectation.
After, even though I had no money (because he had taken it all and then some), we went to a shop that was going out of business and she bought me a small handful of cosmetics as Easter presents.
There was something sacred about this, my mother’s willingness to take a familial bullet for me, her ability to think on her feet and make the best out of her daughter’s very bad situation (remember, bankruptcy was certainly on the table at this point!) and giving me tiny tokens of glamour that would eventually help me forge my current-present that always makes me think of Mary Magdalene.
I think about MM a lot around now. I think about how she must have felt even sicker than I did, watching Jesus get crucified and a deeper despair. I think about how she went to His tomb to annoint His body as a funeral rite for Him and how she found His tomb empty and was told by by men whose clothes gleamed like lightening that He would come back to her. None of the apostles believed her, but that didn’t stop MM. She had learned how to be brave, how to be patient as cats and what a revolution could look like when she was was the benefactress with her sister Martha at her side, doing all of the practical work that a new revolution requires. So she waited. Jesus came to her first, she was His chosen one, the apostle to the apostle. She knew that eventually the others would see Him too and know that the revolution was far from over, it had only just begun.
I think about how my mother had that patience and that foresight to know that maybe she didn’t know exactly what I would become, but she knew it would be better than these dark days of ruin. I think about her rebellious streak that Easter where she ignored what other people thought and wanted her to do and how both MM and my mother constantly inspire me to be brave and move forward even when there’s no pre-approved map of what to do when you can’t give funeral rites because the body is gone, how to navigate speaking with angels for the first time and when your guru has come back from the dead. So you make your own map and you draw your own landmarks and boundaries.
I think about my sister, laughing and doing dishes after a party at my house and how we sometimes fight as only sisters can and how she always has my back and how she slays her dragons every day to be the mother she wants to be and how she’s held me up and believed in my crazy ideas and supported them in any way she could.
Most of all I imitate the behavior of Mary Magdalene, for her amazing – or, rather, loving – audacity which delighted the heart of Jesus, has cast its spell upon mine. St. Therese of Lisieux