Philomena, More Than a Judi Dench Movie
My mother shares her birthday with hometown favorite, Ignacio Allende. Oddly it took me a bit to make the connection and had foolishly assumed the San Antonio street “20 de enero” was simply in her honor.
After my best pal died freshman year of high school I opted to not remember death dates as they make me feel sad. (The concept has had middling success.) For many in SMA, a day of death is actually one’s celestial birthday and revered as such. For my mawkish brother, Tom, it’s simply the only time of year he makes any effort to contact siblings to remind us when our parents or brother died and put us each in a momentary funk. Tom has always been a buzz kill.
This year I decided to proactively take a different approach so on Jan. 1st, my mother’s sister birthday, I wrote a long email to her oldest daughter, Kathy. My cousin Kathy is 20 years older than me and lives in England. I only remember meeting her once when I visited her during a weekend break from working at the embassy in Paris three decades ago. I found her charming and the nightly tradition of having tea with her husband in bed very romantic. Probably why she, like her mother and mine, found herself unexpectedly pregnant when middle aged.
Anyhow, the email experience was a pleasant one for me as she had very different memories of my parents and older siblings than I do. For her, I think she was pleased her mother was remembered with such fondness. She later that month wrote me on my mother’s birthday and it was a nice way to start the day before giving a tour.
Part of what I enjoy about giving tours is it keeps me on my toes, for I never know what statues are going to be out and about as it varies according to the time of year and feast days. Faith and culture in SMA are both very tactile and ritualistic so the movement of the saints plays a large part.
On my mother’s birthday tour I stumbled upon a statue of a saint that has no known connection to SMA and has never been out and about town before (to my knowledge). It was Saint Philomena, my mother’s aunt’s name and where she received the moniker, Phyllis, from.
Frankly, I don’t believe in coincidences and feel it was my mother’s effort to let me know, at the least, she is okay and peripherally aware of what goes on in her babies’ lives. I came home and looked up Philomena to learn she is the patron of babies. It figures!