Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day under Kartlis Deda

Another holiday away from my family. Mother's Day.

On the marshutka-ride out to Tbilisi on Friday, I started reading Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. I didn't know much about the book except that lots of people raved over it when it was first published. In keeping with the uncanny appropriateness of the messages of the books I keep choosing to read, the themes and issues fit perfectly with what I read last (Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha -- I like my reads to follow each other with some commonality) and the present goings-on -- Mother's Day.

The Joy Luck Club is a collection of stories about Asian mothers and their Asian-American daughters. I am only about half-way through the book, but each story has had a compelling connection to every mother-daughter relationship -- the unconditional love, the often-misunderstood sacrifice, and the unspoken bond that spans any distance or time that (I hope) is universal. It's a perfect book to be reading when Mother's Day comes around.

But here I am, 6,000 miles away from my mother on Mother's Day.

I am spending the weekend in Tbilisi with my usual travel companions, James and Katherine. Tbilisi has a guardian watching over her -- Kartlis Deda (Mother of Georgia). Kartlis Deda, placed on the hilltop overlooking Old Tbilisi in 1958 to celebrate Tbilisi's 1,500-year anniversary, is a massive, 20-meter aluminum sculpture of a Georgian woman in traditional dress with a bowl of wine in one hand and a sword in the other. The representation is a perfect depiction of the Georgians who greet their friends with wine and their enemies with a sword. The sculpture keeps an eye on the city from her vantage point, and also serves as a constant reminder of the equal-parts generosity and aggressiveness of her people.

Having Kartlis Deda nearby on this Mother's Day weekend has made me feel connected to my own mother in an odd way. Not that my mom looks anything like Kartlis Deda (for sure!) -- but because I know that my mom is always thinking about, worrying about, and praying for me, the proximity and vigilance of the Mother of Georgia lends the maternal connection I need that can span the miles and miles that separate me from my mom. Kartlis Deda watched over me today while I crossed the streets of Tbilisi (a death-defying feat). While I ran along the Mtkvari River this morning, she greeted me with an attentive gaze. She was already on the hilltop above the Botanical Gardens when I got there, keeping the way safe as I climbed up behind her.

Kartlis Deda

I did see my mom today thanks to a little miracle called Skype. It was nice to wish her a happy Mother's Day and talk about our weekend's activities. As nice as that was, I long for the day when I will sit in her physical presence and share our mother-daughter relationship in a real present moment. The Joy Luck Club meets Kartlis Deda in the great state of Maine. 

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