Foster Mothers

11 July 2002, New York City

“Let me show the picture to Mother. She’ll love it!”

“No, no, look how busy She is; I wouldn’t want to interfere,” said the soft-spoken woman.

“But I know She’ll love to see this, and to know your story.”

“I did mean to show it to Her, but I just forgot.”

“That happens around Mother!”

Both laugh.

“I’ll take it up to Her; you sit here and I’ll point you out, I think She’ll want to see who is taking care of this wallaby.”

The woman was still hesitant, not wanting to take any of Amma’s time, but she handed over the photo: it showed a baby wallaby (sort of like a kangaroo) standing up on what was definitely not a typical place for such an animal: a human bed.

She held out a second item as well: an eagle feather. “I also meant to give Her this — but I forgot it, too!”

The picture and the feather were taken up to Mother, and the story was told:

“Kathleen nurses sick or rejected babies at the Bronx Zoo, Amma. All kinds of animals born in captivity — if their mothers reject them, or they’re sick, she takes them in, cuddles them, feeds them — like this wallaby!”

Amma, Devi in brilliant purple and gold, grabbed the photo, looked closely, and smiled. Smiled and smiled, and looked over at Kathleen and smiled some more.

She touched the zoo baby’s forehead with sandal paste, and blessed the feather with another spot of sandal paste. She sent both back to Kathleen, along with the message that Mother couldn’t take an eagle feather out of the country so Kathleen should keep it now as prasad.

Kathleen clasped the picture and the feather to her bosom and smiled towards Mother.

You had the feeling that the two “mothers” were kindred spirits, each one accepting any who are rejected, and each nurturing any who suffer.

As for the eagle feather, when the Ponca Chief Sah Pah offered Amma an eagle feather a week ago, he explained that it was the highest honor that his people could give to an individual. It seemed perfect, then, that one foster mother offered it to another foster Mother, who then offered it back. Mutual honor, mother to Mother to mother.