Meredith Gould is the author of The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions and Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship. She blogs at More Meredith Gould and serves as editor of The Virtual Abbey. I’ve come to know and love her through Twitter. Many thanks to her for sharing

Meredith's home shrine to Mary, on the deck of her condo (scent of roses mixed with honeysuckle is, she assures us, quite intoxicating)

My mother is fond of recalling this vignette from my 1950s childhood. Georgia Bresnahan and I are slowly circling the living room of my family’s suburban split level home. Georgia and I have dish towels on our heads and while my mother doesn’t remember if these schmattes were blue, she does remember our six-year-old hands being clasped in prayer position. She also remembers how we adapted these lyrics from the 1949 musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein,  “South Pacific”:

Holy Mary is the girl I love.
Holy Mary is the girl I love.
Holy Mary is the girl I love.
Now ain’t that too damn bad!

True story.  Really, I cannot make this stuff up, including how this anecdote is always told with great good humor by my Jewish mother.

Yes, folks, this would be the Jewish mother who served fish for Shabbat dinner during the 1960s. She’s the Jewish mother who exclaims, “Oy vey, Maria” as a loving sop whenever I’m going off the rails about Roman Catholicism, the religious expression of Christianity I embraced after being baptized during adulthood. She’s the Jewish mother who both defies and reinforces some of the worst possible stereotypes thereof.  Once, when I suggested she might live with me, she snapped back with, “Why? It didn’t work out the first time.”  I think this (typical) exchange  probably explains why I don’t quite understand, let alone feel comforted, by Marian devotions.

For me, Mary will always and forever be a Jewish mother. Jokes about how we know Jesus was Jewish (e.g.,  “because his mother thought he was God, and he thought his mother was a virgin) ring a little too ruefully true for the me who will always and forever be a Jewish daughter.

Nevertheless, as an advocate of Roman Catholic traditions, I endorse crowning ceremonies and chanting the Regina cœli during May; planting a Mary Garden as weather permits. Heck, I even have a lovely little statue of the BVM on my deck.  From my desk, I can easily gaze upon a tiny glow-in-the-dark BVM as well as a more dignified replica of a 17th century Madonna, and three different types of Theotokos icons. Nearly a dozen sets of rosary beads hang on the bulletin board, even though praying the Rosary has never been my preferred spiritual practice.

As I write this, I scan the room  again and see even more images of Mary that I don’t actively notice yet would miss if they were gone.

I’ll insist that I do not get “the Mary thing” but maybe that’s not entirely true. I do, after all, eventually get around to calling my mother and still prefer my version of Hammerstein’s lyrics.