A couple of weeks ago I went to see the new Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! movie. In addition to being a fan of movies inspired by musicals I also loved the emphasis that was placed on the mother/daughter relationship in the first Mamma Mia and had heard that this new installment would continue to focus on that relationship. It definitely didn’t disappoint!
This second movie takes place five years after the original Mamma Mia, and roughly a year after the death of Donna Sheridan, with Donna’s daughter Sophie preparing for the grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna. This second movie also features lots of flashbacks where we are able to see a young Donna arrive at the island of Kalokairi as well as see how she first meets Sam, Bill, and Harry, her daughter Sophie’s three possible fathers.
As one might imagine, even if you aren’t familiar with the movie there is a lot going on, but the part that I found most intriguing was the very end of the movie. At this point Sophie has given birth to her own baby and is bringing the child to the church to be baptized. During the ceremony Donna’s spirit is there at the font with her daughter and new grandchild and you could feel this amazing sense of connection and love between not only three generations but across the lines of physical and spiritual presence and space.
This part of the movie brought to mind a picture and book excerpt that I recently came across on social media. The book excerpt is from Layne Redmond’s When the Drummers were Women, where she writes, “All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed in the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythm of our mother’s blood before she herself is born, and this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.” This text was accompanied by the beautiful “Triple Goddess” by Amy Haderer. Haderer describes this work as the three stages of womanhood, Mother, Maiden, and Crone, and says that it “is also characterized by the waxing, waning, and full moon… the tenderness of maidenhood, the fullness and fertility (either physically or metaphorically) of motherhood, and the wisdom and foresight of old age are an inspiration to all no matter where you are in your life.”
I absolutely love the feelings of intergenerational, female connectedness that these words and this visual art inspire. My mother, and grandmother and I have always been close and I love that there are scientific, biological contributions to this closeness, but I also feel this close intertwining connection with my step daughter. While it may not be biological in the same way, and perhaps we will have to work to keep that connection in different ways than a biological mother and her child might, I can tell that it is there.
I also appreciate how Redmond’s words connect each of us all the way back to the first mother. While I was raised and still identify as a mainline Protestant Christian I have never been able to imagine God as a gendered be-ing. In fact, when I briefly pursued becoming a pastor my candidacy committee found it hilarious that my physical description of God centered around the concept of a sparkly cloud. Though I still don’t understand God as a gendered being I love this image of the old woman as she seems to be embracing the entire earth, or perhaps all of creation, in what seems to be a peaceful and fully content and centered way.
Whether through spirits or souls across a baptismal font, or through the first mother of us all creation I love the connections that these movies, words, and works of art represent. And I love the feeling of peace, power, and strength that they inspire. May these moments of connections, to one another and to something more, given us the strength and passion we need to carry on.
Dr. Katie M. Deaver, earned her Ph.D. in Feminist Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Deaver holds a B.A. in Religion and Music from Luther College in Decorah, IA, as well as MATS and Th.M. degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her dissertation explored the connections between the Christian understanding of atonement theology and the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States. Her other areas of interest include the connection between power and violence, sexual ethics, and working toward the elimination of the oppression and exploitation of women and girls around the world.