I quite like Vesta. She is the hearth goddess, the one who keeps the home fires burning. Vesta is a virgin goddess, but she is ‘mom’ to the rest of the gods. She’s the one who provides the milk and cookies and the ear after the stressful day battling monsters.
On Mother’s Day, the sweet and mushy cards abound and they mostly seem to envision the same mother, devoted and appreciated. But mothers are women, and they are diverse!
I have 6 mothers.
First, I have the mother who carried me, thoroughly nauseated and regretting the idea, within her body and who raised me. She is a creator mother. She makes clothes, quilts, jewelry, tapestries, sweaters, and good food. She gardens, and eats her harvest, while her flowers are admired by neighbours. She has had four children, each quite different in outlook. She cares for them with gifts of time and talent.
Next, I have the four Finnish host mothers who sheltered me on my youth exchange:
The first, was like Vesta. She was a nurse who had raised five amazing children, and she welcomed me into her embrace with a loving care that overwhelmed me with its sweetness. She patiently listened each evening, sitting with me and asking me to describe my day and the news from home. With my growing Finnish vocabulary, funny drawings and a Finnish English dictionary as a last resort, I learned to communicate with her. I grew by leaps and bounds.
The second was an athletic teacher. She was tough and no nonsense. She had four children. Three older teens (one in the army) and a two year old. She was harried and busy. I was devastated to have left my first host family, and suffering from serious Seasonal Affective Disorder while I was living there (though no one knew it at the time: I slept all the time, had no energy, and felt very morose). I wasn’t a very good exchange student there, to be honest. What I remember most, actually, was that the bathroom with the shower/tub / sauna didn’t have a lock, and the two year old would come in whenever I wanted to bathe. I had no privacy, and was terrified of having my host dad or host brother walk into the room accidentally. I smelled bad when I lived there, as a result! :-S She was the working mother of a toddler. Her life was full and exhausting.
The third was a trophy wife of a banker. Bouffant bleach blonde hair, blue eye shadow, and black eye liner were her trademarks. She had two children who were away from home, so I was a relief to her her boredom. Not that she was often bored. Her calling was as a hostess. There was a constant stream of guests, dressed to the nines, holding their wine glasses, and discussing the world. She wore beautiful clothes, practised her English on me, and went travelling. They left me alone rather frequently, and I found that I didn’t mind the independence of having my own little apartment where I could shower in security, but I missed the embrace of a family.
The fourth was the wife of a sailor. She was grounded, earthy, and fun. She had two teens and a 9 year old. She welcomed me into the household and treated me like one of her own, taking me everywhere. We chatted constantly and I felt understood and appreciated. I adored my little sister in particular, as she had the time and interest to take me around the neighbourhood, have me at her school for show and tell, and to chatter with me constantly so that my Finnish was solidified.
When I married, I received my sixth mother. My mother-in-law is a pious, caring lady who is anxiously devoted to her children and grandchildren. She is a wife of a professor and farmer who hosts crowds of visiting entomologists, ornithologists, lepidoptorists, genealogists, farmers, church members and friends from all walks of life with good grace and sincere interest. She adores each of her in-law children and grandchildren and makes sure we know it.
Vesta guards the hearth and everyone gathers around its warmth for sustenance, care, and conversation. Pull up a chair. Whatever kind of mother or child you are, there is room.