Domesticity and the true story of how Mary got her name

Before I forget, a picture! I finally remembered to send myself this picture instead of just Instagramming it and forgetting it.

The girls ask me every day to crochet them granny squares. These are some of the granny squares I crocheted together for Mary yesterday. During Ammon’s nap, Mary talks to me and putters by my chair while I crochet. Her behavior has improved dramatically ever since we started this routine. I think she feels listened to and loved, and I have reveled in the opportunity to just enjoy her.

On Wednesday the girls were unusually well-behaved. I think this can be at least partly attributed to my mom. My mom is in Michigan enjoying a sibling reunion and has been praying a lot that things would go well while she is gone. Thanks, Mom, for your prayers!

I also enjoyed a quick visit with Liem and Phuong, who swung by to pick up their bear spray en route to the Tetons. It was great to see them.

Oh, and I guess Abe and I got the kids to bed on time and spent the rest of the night talking. I practiced knitting while we discussed our spiritual lives, his work, our kids, and our desires for our kids. I am constantly thinking and working toward the end goal with my children, but Abe always has great insights that broaden my vision. The end goals I see, which I repeat in my mind like a mantra, are to equip the kids with skills. I want them to leave this home knowing how to use their bodies, to climb, ski, swim, skate, dance, and to find joy in their physicality. I want them to be excellent musicians, to use their hands to create peaceful things, to be curious and interested in the world, and to enjoy learning. When Abe talked about our dreams for the kids, he said this to me (in his own words, which I can’t recall exactly–but this is what I heard):

“When I think of what we most want for our kids, I imagine Lydia in a happy marriage, and going through life with great joie-de-vivre. I want her to be happyDo I really care where she goes to school or if she is wildly professionally successful? No, not really. All that matters to me is that she grows up to be happy, to experience the joys that we have found in our marriage and in our faith.”

That really helped me get perspective. I forget the emotional goals sometimes because I am so focused on outfitting the kids with skills. Of course, I feel exactly the same as Abe; in the end, I could honestly care less about what the girls’ resumes look like as long as they are happy (in the truest sense of the word) and have faith (because faith, in my experience, is deeply connected to happiness).

This week of bed rest has been so educational for me. I have had a steep increase in pain, and even a little stress brings on contractions, so I have been letting the girls enjoy a looser schedule without their music practice. While I don’t plan on doing this indefinitely (because I feel the long-term benefits of disciplined practice will actually add to their capacity for joy and happiness in life later), the reprieve has been so wonderful. For the past couple days I have been able to focus just on being more loving, spending quality time with the kids, and searching for ways to affirm them. Anyways, affirming and loving my kids during peaceful moments is practically my favorite thing about being a mom–though the long stretches we can go without peaceful moments mean my kids probably have no idea that this is indeed my favorite thing about parenting.

Anyway, that was such a long aside!!! What I meant to do when I sat down to type was to transcribe the wonderful memoir extract of one of my ancestors. My mom left this with me before she left for Michigan, and I finally read it this morning. I can not even describe what I felt while reading this memoir. While reading this, my soul literally reverberated with immediate recognition, connection, illumination, and love. I draw daily upon my experiences in my grandmother’s home as I try to create my own patterns of domesticity, and I recognized some of these patterns in this memoir. My grandmother, like Great-great-great-great-great grandmother Mary, also had gooseberry bushes, and these memoirs tasted like gooseberry pie to me. I don’t know how else to describe them.

But now I am running out of steam, and I am pretty sure the memoir extract (which is quite lengthy) is attached to our electronic family history tree. If I have energy later, I will transcribe it in a separate post.

The long and short of it is that my ancestral parents, Henry James Clark and Mary Lewis Mansfield Clark, voluntarily liberated their slaves, left behind their comforts and wealth, and made a new life in the wilderness of Illinois. They entertained Abraham Lincoln regularly before he was famous, and they were known for their goodness. Grandfather Clark was a man of “unusual liberality of opinion” and was often called to settle disputes informally to avert legal complications. He was a vital force in the community’s religious life.

But most of the memoir focuses on Grandmother Mary, who, out of that wilderness, created a breathtakingly beautiful domestic life for her family. The memories of her granddaughter took my breath away. The comforts of the lush flower gardens, the fresh fruit and berries from their farm, the quiet comfort that comes from spinning, weaving, and working with the hands, the pastoral peacefulness of rural Illinois–all of these things worked to create the most gorgeous routines and memories. Thank you, ancestors, for your legacy. I love you.

Also, the true story of how my Mary got her name.

Shortly after I had Lydia, I felt Mary’s presence and spirit repeatedly. In fact, Abe and I had a very sacred encounter with her spirit before she was born. So I got pregnant six months after Lydia was born, experienced a miscarriage, and got pregnant again–with Mary–shortly after that. While I was wondering what name could possibly be as special or meaningful to me as Lydia, I wandered over to the family tree chart hanging on my mother’s wall.

On the family tree chart, I saw so many Marys! I am sure that is the case with many people who have Catholic ancestors, but as I looked at all of the Marys, including the Mary who was described in this morning’s memoir, I also thought about the Marys in the Bible, and I knew I had found my name.

Only a few months after that, I was reading one of my Aunt Lydia’s letters, and I discovered that when she became a Carmelite nun, her new convent name was Mary. Therefore, Lydia, Mary, and I share a common bond (Lily was Aunt Lydia’s nickname).

This post is already too long, so maybe tomorrow I will write about the hopes and meaning behind Clarissa Vicenta’s name.