catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 19 :: 2008.10.24 — 2008.11.07


Becoming a Matriarch

Family archery club

Photo: Family archery club, 1876


Unless the Lord builds the house,

those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has
his quiver full of them.
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127

My mother-in-law often reminds me that I told her at my engagement festivities that I aspired to become a Matriarch.  This was certainly an odd thing for a young bride-to-be to remark.  I was the eldest in my generation and the next to take over this title.  I had incredible role models, ones I knew personally and ones from family stories going back to the Revolutionary War. 

My mother-in-law’s family had no aspirations to a title. Life’s circumstances-escaping the pogroms of Czarist Russia through Ellis Island-produced strong women in survival mode.

My grandmother’s older sisters did not refer to themselves as Matriarchs.  They often referred to another member of their generation whom they considered a better representative by having become more famous than themselves.  Cousin Patty, for whom the Westminster chiming mantle clock was named, definitely received this reference.  The clock acquired her moniker because it chimed on the quarter hour and Cousin Patty talked a lot.  She also was a breeder of cattle and the first woman in the Pennsylvania state legislature.

My father’s second cousins really popularized the aspiration to Matriarchal status as they teased one another about who held the title and what “perks” were associated with it.  These discussions begat an epical mythical quality associated with the title Matriarch.

As I continue to aspire to attain this title, my focus is on family relationships-maintaining and enhancing these relationships through events and stories, creating space for laughter and ideas.  Creation not just of artifacts to be passed down, but memories that energize the next generation, launching them like arrows into the future (Psalm 127:3-4).

Paradoxically, pressing on also means not venerating a title nor even these relationships but seeing all of life in relationship to Christ (Philippians 3:12-14).

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