I come from a long line of strident women
First born porcelain cleaners.
I have cleaned white bowls for 40 years
if you count the early days when my brothers did yard work
and I polished taps and sanitized alongside Mother.
I tried to levy birth order then
for wrinkled finger tips, upright vacuums white noise, and
dusters made of outgrown undershirts.
Stared with longing out the window for
a clue less obvious than
the flowering buds of my own soft flesh.
Come to think of it,
I denied things long after;
my femininity an afterthought,
broadcast an ‘I Can Do Anything’ mantra like a war shield,
blazing fearless into
life and love.
Life inside me changed everything.
Womb blossoming like a June rose
fragrant with maternity, all thoughts of
equality cracked like the precious hand
of my grandmother’s china doll.
Clarity came with mother’s milk and creation,
my benediction to a long line
of strident women
My Grandfather’s father, Sgt. James Hislop Cook, A Company, 20th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. 1914 – 1919. Photo taken in 1918.
Note the insignia on his lower left sleeve.
CROSSED RIFLES: The crossed rifles identify him as a Marksman. This qualification entitled men to an extra allowance, which was welcome for poorly paid soldiers. Marksmanship qualifications had to be re-earned every year.
THREE STRIPES: These stripes are commonly known as “wound stripes”, and are rewarded each time a soldier is wounded in combat.
Thanks to my brother Joel for the use of these family photos and the explanations of their meaning.
February 14, 1916. (Valentine’s Day)
Just another card to your collection. Hope to find yourself in best of health as this leaves me well and looking forward to being with you very soon now – kindly Geo [his brother, George, also a soldier] was asking after you all, best wishes to the barnes [children] and not forgetting my wiffie, lots of love from your own husband Jim
’till we meet again lovy
James Wilson Miller Cook
Personal mission statements aside, no spiritual formation retreats or
Regular sessions with an accountability coach or a mentor. Yet, I see now how you knew God.
You knew him in the way of cultivated earth, rocks thrown aside, seeds tucked in waiting for rain and sun and time to do their work.
You knew him in fresh picked beefsteak tomatoes, sun warmed, softball sized, passed into my wide-eyed citified grasp, and salted first bites, warm juice gushing down my chin.
You knew him in the song birds in your garden, the ‘Tropicana’ roses you propagated, and the paraffin topped jars of black currant jam set out to cool on the kitchen counter.
God, to you, lived in the close up worlds of stamen and pestle, and all growing things, in the dew worms we gathered by flashlight on the wet grass, and put into tubs for next days fishing trip.
God, to you, was practical love. Hands on, tireless, twenty year sacrifice for the ‘good looker’ you married, who lost mobility and found great love in you.
I wonder if I first found God in the sound of the Jersey’s bawling from the farm next door, or a calf’s sandpaper tongue against my open hand?
Or did I find God in the warm dent you left in your bed, when I was afraid of sheet lightening and blue bottle flies trapped inside my bedroom window, and crawled in with Grandma?
I heard your occasional ‘Would you look at that!’ as I followed you around the two acres, hands grasped behind my back, parroting plant names in latin. Still,
It took me 40 years of looking in less obvious places to come to the realization that God’s voice was hard wired, haunting, familiar.
You told me once that you read your bible seven times over, cover to cover.
I think about that too some days.