She told me the story years ago. And to the best of my recollection it went something like this:
She was young, and very much in love. It led to an engagement that eventually fell apart. And in despair, she thought her life was over. Until she heard the gentle whisper of God. He asked her to give Him her life, so she did.
Against her parent’s wishes, she left the security of their Texas home, and started seminary miles away in San Francisco. “If I were catholic,” she told me, “I’d have become a nun.”
Having given up on love, she was surprised to find it there when she fell head over heels for my Uncle Eugene. They married in a small ceremony in August of 1950.
They graduated and the young couple, not yet fluent in Spanish, left to serve the people of a country village in Venezuela.
In those early years, she longed for nothing more than to have a baby. Month after month led to disappointment. One day, she thought her dream had finally come true. And desiring not to disturb nature, she sat still and busied herself sewing a quilt. Something to cover her future infant. When the sun set, her blanket was done.
But by morning her dream was shattered. A doctor told her it would never happen. Her body didn’t seem to have what it took to carry a child.
She could no longer bear to look at that quilt. So she sold it at a bazaar to raise funds for the village church her husband pastored.
A little old lady bought it as her burial cloth. She called it her, colcha de un día, her quilt of a day. And she cherished it until it fulfilled its purpose.
Aunt Jeanne Marie would never have a baby of her own. But that would not stop her from mothering. And to me and my five brother’s and sisters, she’s as much our mother, as the one who gave us birth.
You see, she came one May in the midst of our violent storm. I was ten that day.
Years later, I tried to get her to admit we were monsters. But she couldn’t bring herself to say the words. I chided her, “Come on Aunt Jeanne Marie, we were out of control.”
Finally she sighed, “Alright Ellen, you were monsters, but you were MY monsters.”
Over the years, I’ve often thought of that quilt. I’ve imagined my aunt meticulously sewing its seams. I’ve imagined her hope, and I’ve imagined her brokenness.
To this day she insists loving us filled that void. That she’s never looked back and wondered, what if?
So this Mother’s Day, I will raise my glass to my other mother, the one I proudly call, my Aunt Jeanne Marie. So indulge me as I honor this woman who taught me how to love. Because that love saw past the monster in me, and it embraced my potential. And it powerfully nudged me along, all the way to adulthood.
Now you tell me, where can you find a better Mother than that??