an excerpt from a longer piece I’m writing …
Mary, Queen of the Universe stares down at me from her perch high above, near the alcove, next to the altar. Her hands held out from her sides, showing her clean, white skin, perfect nails, fingers soft and unscathed. Mary, Queen of the Universe was never my role model, I prayed instead the prayers of St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless cases. I did not want to be a mother, I wanted to be a warrior, I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be a writer and a poet and a songwriter. I wanted to be a punk rocker, foul mouth, notorious for sullen looks and moody lyrics. Mary, Queen of the Universe had nothing to offer with her hands outstretched, so peaceful and serene, holding things together so perfectly, assumed bodily into Heaven, intact, not left to decay here on Earth.
Surrounded by a deep gilded background, a sea of gold, Theotokos of Vladimar does not seem to see me there. She looks beyond me, further ahead, past the place where I stand and into the pale future; hers, mine, ours. Her face is pressed by the cheek of the Christ child. He is in need, he is needy. His arm is wrapped around her neck, pulling her to him. “Look here” he says. I know those words, I know that hand on my neck, that cheek against my own. When I make eye contact with her now that I, too, am a mother I see something new in this woman. No longer Queen of the Universe and untouchable, I see her now, weary and fully woman; body aching, bone tired, even the Son of God has a child’s needs and wants. Even the bearer of God’s son has a mother’s needs and wants. She wants him to be healthy. She wants him to be happy. She wants him to get married, grow old and wise. Somehow in her heart she knows this will not happen. Somehow in her heart she knows that her fears for his future are both common place and cosmic.
When I go to her now, when I light the candle nearest her and kiss her icon tenderly every morning I am thinking about my children and about my fears; for them, for me, for us all. When I go to her now in the early morning hours she sees me and we know each other. She gives me the “it’s going to be alright” look I find myself giving to the harried mother in line at the grocery store, with children climbing on her back and her shopping cart, clinging and pressing their faces into her cheek, “Look, here. See me” they say. When I go to her now and kiss her icon tenderly every morning I am thinking of that harried mother in line at the grocery store and I am thinking of the woman who has never been that harried mother in the grocery store but always yearned to be and I am thinking of the woman who has no need or desire to be that harried mother in the grocery store line and I feel all of them in my skin, in my lips as I kiss the icon. We are, all of us, in this together and Theotokos, God-bearer, touches my face and tells me in no uncertain terms that we are alike. We are all alike.