Do you know who your godmother is? Are you a godmother?
I started pondering these questions just before Mother’s Day. I had gone to the greeting card department of my favorite health and beauty aids store, to buy cards for my mother and my godmother. While there was a plethora of cards for Mom, Mother, Wife, Aunt, etc., I couldn’t find a card specifically for my godmother. It wasn’t that the cards were out of stock: there wasn’t even a section for godmothers. When I asked the cashier about it, she drew a blank.
“I wouldn’t even think to send a card to my godmother,” was all she could offer.
So, I did a little research on the Hallmark card website. I found only two godmother cards for Mother’s Day, along with one card for the godmother at a baptism. Further research on the web, particularly Wikipedia, proved to be a little more fruitful on the subject…although the first thing that came up when I googled “godmothers” was the restaurant in Cape May!
The tradition of godparents seems to have begun with the Christians, although even the various Christian faiths differ on the importance of godparents and who can be a godparent. Most agree, however, that godparents are entrusted with the spiritual care of their godchild. In the secular realm, godparents are chosen to step in as legal guardians upon the demise of the parents. Godmothers are the female component of the godparent team. Quite a big job. One would think there would be more cards for that.
Compounding the godmother confusion, of course, are fairy godmothers. I would guess that most of us these days first think of the Disney version. I know Hallmark does: one of the two available godmother cards is illustrated by Cinderella’s Disney fairy godmother. Which may not be bad. At least Disney has kept godmothers in the public’s eye, if only in the fairy variety. (I’m not even touching the media image of godfathers!) Still, there are similarities: fairy godmothers and real godmothers wait in the wings to swoop to the rescue when necessary.
I admit that I haven’t taken my own godmother duties terribly seriously. I am a three-time godmother, although in two cases I am really an absentee. I was first a godmother to my cousin’s son, Evan, whom I probably would not recognize today. Though I kept in contact with my cousin and her family for awhile when her children were young, we seem to have gone separate ways without even meaning to. Second, I am godmother to my friend’s daughter, Kimberly. Less absent there, thank goodness, as I do see Kimberly and her mom a few times a year. My niece, Riley, is my third godchild, and I see her quite often, thanks to the myriad family gatherings that come from having three sisters and eight nieces and nephews. I am sure I would have stepped up to the task if called upon to assume my godmotherly duties but, I am happy to admit, it looks like I am off the hook.
My own godmother is my Aunt Ann and, I am sure, quite relieved she never had to assume responsibility for my soul. I must admit, though, there were times I felt comforted knowing I had someone “in reserve” in case I ever needed her. Although we are not inordinately close, Aunt Ann and I have kept in contact most of my lifetime. I chat with her at our family gatherings, spent a week or two with her each summer when I was a pre-teen (before jobs, cars, boys), and was even close to her daughter for awhile. This year, I really wanted to send her a special card because her own family is now gone: she lost both her daughter and her husband to cancer, and her brother (my father) and sister are also deceased.
The best I could send was a Mother’s Day card For My Aunt, but it just didn’t measure up.