In the last school I taught in Ireland, before we packed up our lives and sent them off in a ship to Madrid, I always had the sense that the principal and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye. After a prolonged maternity leave with Ellen, and before returning to work, I decided to join the staff including the school principal, on a trip to Edinburgh.
To my surprise, upon my arrival, she was the first to greet me with a very genuine warm embrace. That night, perhaps with tongues loosened by a little alcohol, or perhaps not, she proceeded to tell me a little bit about her mother.
I was both touched and overwhelmed, firstly by her reaction to me and secondly, by what she told me. So much so, that I was moved to think out a poem, which unfortunately I never wrote down. It’s been long forgotten and lost somewhere to the Universe. But I do remember the first line:
“Even God has a mother.”
I don’t think I’m a feminist because I don’t really know what that really means any more. I am a woman though and I know what that means.
Essentially, for me at least, it’s my physiology (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_human_physiology), which differentiates me from approximately half of the world’s human population (http://www.businessinsider.com/map-showing-ratio-of-women-and-men-2015-8).
I suppose sometimes it could mean I see dirty dishes and unfolded clothes and generally anything to be done around the house first; that my instincts are tuned into the humour of whoever is around me; that I love the bit of gossip shared with other women, preferably over a cup of tea or coffee; that I get a thrill, brief as it is, out of finding something to wear that really suits me; etcetera because this paragraph could turn into a very lengthy and politically incorrect soliloquy.
My double X sex chromosome, as opposed to the XY male sex chromosome, has lead to the expression of a host of physical differences, not least the greater expression in my body of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone compared to the male equivalent, testosterone. (Heck, they’re what’s driving this damned BC).
I’m neither qualified nor well-read enough to know what exactly makes my connection to other women so special and my connection to the men in my life, equally special but different, but I have a strong suspicion that it’s hormone-based and as a result heart-felt, also in a different way.
In recent months, I have been up-lifted by my husband, father, mother, brothers sisters-and brothers-in-law with their physical presence, driving, child-minding, cooking, supporting words of kindness and solidarity and David’s comical face gestures, which in my nauseated state have just now cracked me up! My mother, aunts, sisters-in-law, female cousins and friends in unison have raised me up with their prayers, lighting of candles, gifts, whatsapping and facebooking.
And now my sister’s hug awaits me. Three months waiting and only two more sleeps remain to throw my arms around Catherine and embrace her tightly. She, with her interminable up-beat spirit and energy, that I so adore and admire, has just finished up her busy year teaching in a European school in Belgium, packed up her car with husband and three boys in tow, driven three long days down through France and Spain and offered her whole self for her entire summer holidays.
I have only one sister, like each of my two daughters. We are separated in age only by 13 months (I think I might have been a misconception, pardon the pun, of the anti-contraceptive benefits of breast-feeding). We share the same blood and the same up-bringing. My diagnosis of breast cancer – essentially a female dominated disease – must really have shaken the deepest fiber of my only sister, expressed by our cry in unison, one evening on the phone. With those tears, nothing more has to be said or talked about. Everything else is understood. That is the connection of two women’s hearts, which are very closely bound.
In recent years, I know my sister and I have not seen eye-to-eye on certain worldly issues, just like I intuited with my former boss in the school in Ireland. But that doesn’t matter. If I can look a person, my sister, my boss, or anyone else, male or female, eye-to-eye and read what’s really in those eyes, sadness, anger, joy, peace, love, and that somebody else can do the same with me, it could be the beginning of a heart-to-heart connection, the kind that I think really matters, and which unites us all in spirit around the world.