When I was a child growing up in New Jersey we would make the long drive up to New Hampshire to visit both sets of grandparents a few times a year.
I know that some families have happy memories of road trips. Ours was not one of those families. I hated those seven hours in the car with every cell in my being. For one thing, my brother Matthew kept touching my side of the seat. Sometimes he would make spit bubbles in my direction. How is one to endure such horrors for seven hours? And if there were a ball game on the radio? Hours of static-filled meaningless ball blather. Good god! It's no wonder that to this day the thought of leaving my house sends me hiding under the covers.
What I did love was arriving at my Memere and Pepere's house.
Memere would always be waiting for us in her rocking chair in her kitchen. The house smelled wonderful. Sometimes she'd have chicken fricassee waiting for us and other times it would be tomato soup. She loved to feed people. She put butter on everything and you know what? Butter tastes amazing.
I experienced everything from the height of a child. I loved the strawberry decals on her cabinets and the painted stairs leading to the second floor which were so steep. Hers was the first old house I ever loved and to this day the creak of old floor boards thrill me.
My favorite thing to admire when I visited was the statue of Mary which greeted people in the foyer.
Why did I love Mary?
She was beautiful and mysterious. She was stepping on a snake, which seemed so brave and meaningful. Even at a young age I understood that there was important symbolism at work.
About ten years ago my memere asked me what I would like to have when she was gone.
I didn't even pause. "Mary." I answered.
She thought that my request was a little strange. I was after all married to a Jewish man. In fact, I had been married by a rabbi. She agreed to let me have it, though I was worried. My memere, bless her quirky heart, had a habit of promising items to more than one family member, so my cousin Cheryl took Mary to her house for safe keeping when it seemed like Memere was beginning to give things away a bit too indiscriminately.
Yesterday my mother went to a family party in New Hampshire where Cheryl and her husband Rick delivered the Blessed Virgin Mary to my mother's trunk. Today my mother brought Mary home to my house where she now watches over the staircase.
Here she is.
She is thinking very deep thoughts. Like why the artist gave her a double chin.
Such a generous posture. "I will give you my only Son, and I will also step on this scary snake."
Here's that snake I was telling you about.
The snake used to look scarier.
I had no idea how heavy she was. She is concrete and very sturdy, probably meant for outdoor placement. While David appreciates the sentiment and whimsy with which she graces our stairway, I think displaying her outside would be well, perhaps asking too much. I did point out that she is the worlds most famous Jewish mother.
Thanks to Cheryl, Rick and my mom for delivering Mary. The Virgin has landed!