Part II: Elder, Mama, and...
What does the word Mama signify, given I don’t use it in any of my familiar lines?
My own mother was first Mommy, then Mom. She’s been Mom ever since, the intimate-familiar in our lineages of who we are. Warm-hearted, with a touch of the formal. These choices signify a lot, noting respect and some deference between generations. [I texted my folks recently, playful with the term “Hey parentals!” which I suspect they did not enjoy, but didn’t want to make a thing ;) ].
The first thing Mama points to for me is a trust in the ancestral line, plane. It arrived at the fire in a time of ceremony, which is a thin place between worlds, a space to offer things to those who have come before us. A space to receive things we might not hear otherwise. I’ve since compiled all the archival-ancestral pieces I have, so to sit with, listen, wonder into…
The word resonates with me from within the phrase Community Mama, used by Quanita Roberson, the eldering-leader-cobirther of the Fire&Water community. She observed to me recently that children in West Africa don’t know until ages 6-7 that one woman birthed them. The circle of mothers mothers them, not just the one who gave birth. Mama honors that wisdom stream, long lost within my own ancestral lines. She is so clearly the Mama of this community, even as she co-birthed it with her friend, Tenneson Woolf, who helped hold the spaces for the first three cohorts of the community.
My closest friend uses the word for her mother, though spelled in texts as Momma. I’ve loved being in proximity with the both of them, mother and daughter, each devoted to the other in their complicated-difference ways. And I’ve learned a lot from her intentionality with her Momma in recent years.
I also find it of note that Mama, with its intimate-familiar, comes at the end of a ten-year reclamation journey, the feminine emerging in her dance with my own well-developed masculine. Mama is one of the highest forms of intimate respect I’d know to offer, though it didn’t feel like it came first from me, myself. It seemed to come through me.
This gift from the ancestral plane is also now seeding a percolating discussion amongst some of us on just what mothering means… And so we listen, leaning in…from the providential mothering each of us has received, simply by being borne, into the mine-fields of healing the mother wound in a patriarchal society and the yearnings of so many for the feminine, seemingly unexpressed without wound or imposed ‘shoulds’ or ingested shames of the ‘never enough’ of motherhood today.
For now, I know a deep Mama-energy has been seeded within me, though I have no biological children. In my receiving, therefore, mothering is not biological, though it is deeply embodied. In the re-mothering I’ve been blessed with, the physical presence and touch of women was fundamental.
Saturday, Mama was received, requested, blessedly received again, in a physical embrace.