Minnie in Minnesota


It is stories that map a place as well as a time. And yes, the same stories change over time as the old tellers die off. In stories, like about match-making, marriage, or being chosen.

It is through stories that a place as well as a time is charted, about grandsons and great-grandsons, about world events and local ones. And so this week, I contemplated the story of Jacob so much like his grandfather, and so much like what I have come to feel about my own family.

The power of a culture is based upon a shared literature instead of oral story-telling. Now these stories mostly were read privately and no one knew what you knew.

Passing on your culture with passion, and a Godspeed. So that, at least concerning a depth of both trust and love, a family was split. In such an imperfect world, a distance developed. By the fourth generation a deepness had set in. And with gratitude about how all this had come to pass, the descendants felt forced to look deeper and then try to record it.  

Stories are passed along at gravesites, for a while, about the relationships like within this particular tribe of Abraham, before the laws inscribed upon stone tablets.  And yes, the same stories change over time as the old tellers die off.  And so the stories were recorded.

A woman does express the depth of her feeling, in childbirth. Like Rachel, who made all of this possible, there is in my family a woman named Minnie. Minnie had married a man who was my namesake in the nineteenth century. She gave birth to her firstborn in 1896. A short-time later she died, like Rachel, giving birth to her second born. Minnie’s firstborn was my grandfather.

The reason for the intensity of a woman seemed to mostly come from her fertility. There is the lifetime commitment in fertility for a woman, so much like an old country’s religion. A newborn belonged so much more to a mother than to a father.

When a woman, once she had a child, could no longer be nomadic. Marked for life, so much like Rachel, a woman was expected to somehow bond, in her very own way to carry the God of Jacob further in the world, beyond the tribes and the homeland where they were born? So there was a connection of the Promised Land to fertility and these somewhat invisible women, so much like God’s invisibility, in these stories.

Woman passing on, so invisibly, the power in bonds which had come out of the collective memory of the journeys of nomads. To discover in the story somewhat unexpectedly, for grandsons who followed grandfathers, a Living God – power without domination – through the unforgettable pain of a father and son trying to understand the manner to pray, in the stories that transcends boundaries. These stories were about points of view, in a Creator’s desire for perfection, in themes of birthrights, of power and might, in comparative approaches to God by mother/fathers to sons on life and death, with all the tension in the story. Between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, there is the tension this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture. All along the focus in the culture seemed to be allegedly on the male and his tribe.

Did you recognize the shift by the end of the story that is now all about all of the sons of Jacob and his one daughter, if compounded belief is to stay with the descendants of Jacob and his wives? Like in a dénouement of the story, passing on the power in bonds between your own people, passing on the Spirit in some kind of Abraham-like Crazy Glue, in a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving God, on issues of inheritance and birth right. The goal in repeating the story is to gain access, through stories of discovery to be better, climbing mountains like Isaac, or having to cross the the ford of the Jabbok like Jacob as he met his estranged brother — in a story about receiving strength and power in a crazy belief in this God today for daughters and sons who followed fathers — with divine intervention, like at the top of Mount Moriah.  When Abraham was wrestling with the issue of what son to give his inheritance, either Isaac or Ishmael? Like with the shame of Jacob, who had stood behind all of his wives and children, as he came to meet Esau — not unlike the shame of Abraham, ready to kill Sarah’s firstborn. So was this battle really about who had carried the God of Isaac further in the world, beyond the tribes and the homeland where they were born? Or was this somehow the same inner struggle of God, in favoring one tribe of people, or just one brother? As neither of them, from their quite personal battle, originally at least on the eve of the battle, seemed to be ever coming back?  Maybe a lot like in the story of the Akedah, when Abraham took his on up the mountain to be sacrificed. Grandsons, when this battle was all over, wrestling with the unrecognized birthright question — and passing it on, with such emotion. How could God ever show favor on one brother or one nation? To keep something alive with passion, these grandsons of Abraham with a split family, as Abraham had a split family, who wanted others to have the same powerful experience, as he had had.  And so the many descendants of Abraham who thought they could do anything –inside or outside the tribe — because these people had come to know God through the faithfulness over time from a parent who was offered so much forgiveness in return for sincere offerings on the part of each generation.

In reading the stories, God seemed to be doing more of the arranging in the relationship of Isaac and Rebekah, with Abraham and Jacob doing most of their own arranging with their wives, in the territory of religion called mystery. Those questions which have enduring force in their lives beyond the province of human investigation. And then there was Abraham’s idea of a relationship seen in his offering Sarah to the Pharaoh, which would not play real well these days in Peoria — if the God of Abraham, or the God of Isaac, or the God of Jacob, was ever coming back. Or if the descendants of Abraham transporting God while bearing their forefather’s name would succeed in their own transport of this God to the next so highly opinionated and so combative generation.

Leaving. Coming back. Wasn’t Exodus for Moses the same movement found in the story of Jacob, in the story of nomads in search of something. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories. To know a land and its people was to know the stories.

The son of Minnie fought in The War To End All War between old systems of monarchy controlled by arrogant kings against each other cousins’ kingdoms, for more power.  In battle with the United States Marines, the first family member back in Europe since the family had left to avoid The Great Famine was wounded.  When The Great War came to an end, he was still hospitalized from wounds, as his fellow Marines had left to return to their homes. When he clearly felt he was in a foreign land, not knowing the language of these strangers surrounding him.  And I recognize an inheritance for this young man, like for so many men willing to destroy their own life for a greater cause, just as the glorious transformation of his mother from a girl willing to give her life to create.

In the name of the father, in the name of his son, and in the name of our true holy ghosts … in my Irish-American family who so often pray about the blessed fruit of a womb, most of us have forgotten the key role of Minnie. While writing “The Event Planner” (See https://paperlessworld.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/the-event-planner-dealing-with-arrangement/ ), Minnie has been on my mind.

In puzzles, passing it on.  Yes, the riches lay not on the land but beneath it. T’is this land that takes in the overflow of people. And so the SPIRIT in the land – Delores Keane sings – that owns you. Somehow I so personally had inherited a knowledge of people who I had never known, or never seen – ancestors from Ireland, like people anywhere in time or place who had starved to death, whose spirits would come out again in another Spring.

God so made the world, visible and invisible. Minnie died in trying to increase the numbers, not far removed from the Great Famine, in her attempt with my namesake – like either Rachel or any great prophet, for the delivery of God to the next generation – to replicate God’s greatness. Like Rachel, Minnie was a woman who was expected to somehow, in her very own way, to carry the God of Ireland further in the world, beyond the tribes and the homeland where she was born.  When growth is so much the measure of success. And so the unimaginable, the inconceivable, the unthinkable story of creation and procreation ever since when, in the words of Picasso, every act of creation involves a form of destruction. And I do connect Minnie’s life with the words I heard from the great golfer Jack Nicholas 36 hours ago about the moment in his life when he realized, he said: “I must be better than I think I am.”

The Irish Times, now paperless

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http://www.stumbleupon.com/search?q=keyword, to increase the numbers.

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2 comments so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    Did you hear in this song before the final blessing, the song of emigration? Did you hear the laughter in the church? By friends and family who had gathered to celebrate. To help two people on their way. In the song of hope, that love might grow between them. Especially for the blushing bride. In this song, if not of joy, of the joyful part of mystery. In the beginning. . . With the priest who believes in prayer, if you do not quite. To show two people ‘how we love them, too.’ To celebrate, another new beginning. By the young Irish pair. ‘To show our love,’ before the next great emigration.

    So doesn’t the priest look to be the main character, in the song just before the final blessing? On the altar, representing the sacrifices to come. Or does he just represents the creators seated in the front row of the church …. behind the bridal party?

    Hashtag #Bo_Erickson #ProPublica #Nina_Martin #Derek_Kravitz #AdrianaGallardo

    http://iowapublicradio.org/post/focus-infants-during-childbirth-leaves-us-moms-danger#stream/0

  2. paperlessworld on

    That you might have, that you could have, what I have. When on the surface we were all so undeserving. Of life. From this God who was always involved in life issues. Giving life . . . sustaining life and all the various varieties of life which, on the surface, seemed to be a losing cause. After reading or hearing the stories, about a real way of life, when were you moved to share life?

    In trying to understand the personal love involved in these relationships which began in the Hebrew Bible, was there a need to question God? Had there been a hostility that came out of the step relationships, between a son and his stepmother, that caused a young man to leave home? With a need to question, to even ask the question “Who needs a mother, who even needs a messiah, who needs to be saved?” – as the leaders of my religion did ask – is to miss the love in all of the stories of the Abrahamic religions. Who needs a messiah, unless there is a hell of nothingness at the end?

    When modern warfare is always hell, there is a shame in living unquestioning lives.

    When you are born into something. Born into all the conflict of the past creation not so much with the present, but with the future human creation to come, since the time that Abraham brought his sons –if you believed in both the Qoran and the Hebrew Bible — to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah, is there this human pride of the Abrahamic religions about knowing God, maybe like Adam, if not Eve, had known God? It is the Abraham moment, in a shame in knowing the greatness of God, or maybe that God knows me, with such feelings? Is the shame in conversion, in determining how to convert? And is there the shame in not just in missing the love in all of the stories about some form of fertility and/or deepness within in a world to come, like in Isaac’s descendants who would bear his father’s name, but in the failure to share that God with your estranged brother?

    And unto dust thou shall return.


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