I have discovered there are limits to my emotional stability at the moment.
My memory of yesterday pretty much stop late afternoon when I unpacked the family bible. The rest of the day is almost a blank.
After just a day at home, I was unpacking many of the boxes I brought from my mother’s.
I knew the bible was going to be an emotional land mine, but I had forgotten it was in the pile of boxes I was tackling. Last week I made The Husband pack it and take it home without me having to look at it. It seemed too symbolic to handle just days away from the memorial service.
The family bible came to me through a series of family heirloom negotiations. I had always wanted it but when it became mine I was happy to let it stay at my mother’s house.
To me, the bible is the most significant of all the family heirlooms. My great-grandparents marriage in 1897 is the first entry. The book sat in the front foyer of my grandparent’s home under a photo album of long forgotten relatives and at the bottom of the banister down which I used to slide. Later, it came to my mother who dutifully entered births, deaths and marriages. She clipped obituaries and birth notices and stored them within the aging covers.
To me, the family bible is the, almost, sacred duty of the family matriarch.
Now that duty has fallen to me. The unprepared, unexpected and, seemingly, and undeserving matriarch.
As I unpacked the beautiful antique book and opened the pages I came to my first solemn duty… entering my mother’s death. The page for marking such occasions is tucked between the old and new testaments. The handwriting changes from my Nana’s writing, to my mother’s and now mine.
My printing seems so childish compared to my mother’s scrawling script and my Nana’s careful penmanship. It seems a visual reminder that I am not ready to take on such a job.
Taking ownership of the family bible is symbolic of all I am not ready to face.
No longer can I call home for help… no longer is there someone with all the answers. I am now the matriarch… the family history and the family future lies in my hands.
My family tree holds a long line of strong and capable women. Women who braved childlessness and women who birthed babies unwed and unwanted, women who braved bombings and who crossed oceans to unknown futures with children in tow.
I am the legacy of these women… and the future of that family lies with me.
That I am forced to take that role now seems cruel. A matriarch is wise. A matriarch is old. A matriarch doesn’t want to run home to Mommy.
I do and I’m not ready.