by Jill Richardson
We meet her first when she sends a scathing letter to her son—what J. K. Rowling, in her Harry Potter series, terms a “howler.” In the sender’s voice, the letter verbally delivers a message to the recipient. In this case, that unfortunate recipient is Ron Weasley, and his embarrassment makes us roll our eyes at his overbearing mother, who—via howler–scolds her son in front of the entire school.
The well-meaning Molly Weasley also sends Ron (her youngest son) and his best friend, Harry, Christmas sweaters—enormous wastes of yarn that swathe all her children in embarrassment. We silently (or not so silently) laugh at the middle-aged woman who would create such things and believe they’re beautiful.
Then, we discover we don’t know Molly Weasley at all.
While discussing books that have meant something to me on my own blog, I realized I needed to write about one of my favorite heroines: Molly Weasley–the quintessential mother hen. The character we instantly stereotype—a caring but essentially nonessential woman, what many teenage boys think of their mothers, we suppose. But the audience is meant to agree with that teenage boy, Ron. We see what he sees, and we quietly acquiesce. She’s a good heart, wrapped in hand-knit shawls and irrelevant conversation.
Shows what we know.
It all centers on Molly. It always did.
Molly’s sweaters and letters show us something, if we’re really looking. We see in them, and their creator, a fierce loyalty and love for family that doesn’t care about embarrassment or anything else on its quest for ensuring her offspring are safe and become good people. Her love and loyalty drive everything—and they know nothing on earth that will intimidate them.
There’s something about fierce love and loyalty that cannot help but pull in whatever orbits it.
In Molly’s climactic scene, she chooses to let the rest of the world see what has always been there. Bellatrix, an enemy with no heart or soul, closes in on Molly’s teenage daughter, Ginny, near the end of the massive final battle between good and evil. Bellatrix knows the young girl will be an easy kill. Her experience and her determination will overpower the girl quickly. Ginny has no chance against either her evil or her skill.
But Molly is a mom, and a warrior in mom jeans, and she stands in the way between evil and her child. She always did. She takes aim with her wand and she fires. It is Bellatrix who never stood a chance.
Bellatrix never imagined this middle-aged mama could bring her down. To be fair to Bellatrix, neither did anyone else. We deeply underestimated Molly. We simply never saw what drove her to knit. To bake. To open her home to anyone in need. To risk everything when those “bonus kids” she loved were in deep danger. To bolster her husband’s work in defying evil.
We didn’t see that it was a great work of its own in the fight against evil, those clacking knitting needles and that open guest policy. We didn’t realize that what she really knit together was a web so strong it held and protected so many of the “good guys” we lost count.
I’m pretty sure I whooped too loudly in the theater when she made her heroic stand to protect her daughter. I saw, in that moment, what I should have seen before that scene unfolded. Molly Weasley had been saying, “Not my loved one, b—-” to evil for a very, very long time. And her loved ones were many.
We simply hadn’t noticed.
Isn’t this the story of many middle-aged mamas? Isn’t this why we love her? We feel sometimes so mundane, so overlooked and pointless. Then we see someone who feels as we do about it all—and she doesn’t hold back.
She won’t be irrelevant, and maybe, in that moment, we recognize that we refuse to be as well. We realize we never were.
Women, we are knitting those webs, aren’t we? We’re holding the forces of evil at bay, too, but often in an unnoticed way, and the glory goes to the Harrys and not to the middle-ages mamas. It always does.
Yet we keep on knitting. Maybe not literally; I can’t knit to save my life. Yarn skills evade me. But without us, women, where would the fight be?
- What children would not have been raised who are now the good people we imagined and fought for?
- What injustices would still be occurring if we hadn’t written that letter or volunteered those hours?
- Who would still be in despair if we hadn’t opened our ears, our hearts, our homes?
- What life wouldn’t have been redirected if we hadn’t spoken those words, even in a howler, if the need decreed it?
- What need wouldn’t have been met without our constant watch at the city gates—bringing casseroles, knitting scarves, cleaning toilets, and yes, protesting on the street corners, telling the truth about sexual abuse, and loving the other?
We underestimated women have known this since Shifra and Puah, since Abigail and Ruth. Too often, we don’t believe in our own power, but God affirms it.
God credits such women with the saving of lives, these middle-aged mamas of the Hebrew world. He writes boldly what others overlook. Fierce loyalty and love know no force they fear. They are the specialty of the middle-aged mama.
We’ve been saying, “not my loved one, Satan” for a long time. And the older I get, the more loved ones I accumulate. They come in all colors and languages and creeds, nowadays.
God continues to affirm us as we women—the seemingly irrelevant–use that superpower, that gift of grace, of love and loyalty, to continue the quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) fight.
Jill is a writer, speaker, and pastor in the Chicago area. She loves her three daughters and husband, fish tacos, LOTR, Earl Grey, traveling, grace, and Jesus. She is currently working on her doctorate in church leadership. You can contact her at: https://jillmrichardson.com/