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"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

...............................................................Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Migrant Mother

Christmas time brings an image of the iconic Mother. Mary the Virgin, great with child, betrothed, not yet wed, on a trek to be counted.

But another mother has long haunted me. To me, she is the face of the Great Depression, and the face of America. You’ve likely seen her picture, too, captured by the lens of photographer Dorothea Lange. That picture is an iconic image of Mother, too, a product of the Farm Security Administration’s documentary project in those years. Still available, to those who will see, via the Library of Congress' Prints & Photographs Reading Room.

Lange captured more than one image during the time she spent with Florence Owens Thompson and her seven children near Nipomo California in 1936. There is a common thread to all those black and white pictures, freezing out the distraction and din of color and telling a plain unfettered story.

Mothers struggle in all kinds of ways, and in this season of squander and spoils in some quarters, we must make an extra effort to reach out to and honor those struggles.

The mother who, having raised her children, now finds she is raising her grandchildren. The first time mother who worries over her newborn and the medical tests which have so much power to determine the course of future days.

The mothers buffeted by the wilderness winds of subprime mortgages and a vampire economy determined to suck the lifeblood from workers while dancin’ with pearls on and stuffing each other’s pockets with graft.

Mothers worrying about educating, feeding, housing, caregiving for the wee ones they have nurtured into the world.

Mothers who, having lived long and vibrant lives, begin the slow and slipping pathway into life’s next stage.

We live in Depression-era times, we live in Dickensian times. We give power to Gentlemanly C’s who have no command of history nor will to learn from it. Who never learned to value every mother as they would value their own.

A brooding note for this holiday time, perhaps. But before Ebenezer could shout “Merry Christmas” and bring a turkey to the table of Tiny Tim’s Mom, first he had to experience with his spirit guide the true mirror of the values of his life.

There’s still time. Time to make a difference, to reach out, to help. To live the best of the values Mothers instilled in childhood. Do unto others…. I’ll be taking blankets to a local homeless shelter this morning, because they gave blankets to the children and need blankets for the grown-ups, too. Because there’s still time before Christmas…and the need goes on.

Because 32-year-old Florence Owens Thompson’s family sold their tent to buy food. Because there was no room in the inn. Because a homeless man came to Fargo from Chicago and froze to death in a bus stop kiosk.

Because they continue to come, in waves past the inn to the manger, past the memory of Ellis Island, as my grandparents did. Immigrants, migrants. Mothers, children. On the move toward the hope of a better life.


Anonymous said...


Prairie Sunshine said...

Thanks for stopping by. Please come back. your timestamp says 9:11. That's haunting, too.