First rite of passage: unwrapping the gifts of mentorship

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Sharon and Ginny amused with a question in the “room of blessing”.

I wholeheartedly believe that in the world of those who live and those who learn, every person has something to offer. There are value-laden opportunities in almost every conversation and around nearly every corner. Mentoring isn’t just about sitting under the bodhi tree of wisdom, it’s also about sharing vulnerable stories about adolescent crushes, demonstrating how to replace a chain on a bicycle, or teaching a kid to cook broccoli. According to dictionary.com, a mentor is really just a “wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Someone who has something to contribute. Someone worthy of trust in a given area, whether it’s quilting or quantum physics.

So in the spirit of mentorship, in preparation for this first rite of passage, I had an assignment for each participant: fill a 4 x 2 inch wooden thrift store Chinese herb drawer with as much wisdom as you can. You can do it with objects, pictures, symbols, words, trinkets, whatever you want, but just make sure each item represents to you something of value to teach Ginny about womanhood.

Simple. Anyone could fill a 4 inch box. Simple, but ultimately, extremely profound. Only each individual could fill a 4 inch box with themselves- the wisdom, insight, enlightenment, and creativity that comes from that singly unique soul. Every stone explained, every word expanded upon, every trinket from today or time past would open up Ginny’s world into the wisdom and inspiration of one soul’s walk on the edges and main thoroughfares of womanhood and humanity. And in doing that, I knew that mentorship could be contained within the perimeter of the palm of a hand, but also leave indelible lifelines.

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the simple, but incredible magical, Chinese herb chest

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First rite of passage: fashioning the invitation

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hand-crafted love

How do you fashion love and admiration into a 4 x 6 piece of cardstock? That was my dilemma. I wanted the invitees to know via a well-crafted invitation the importance and thoughtfulness I was carefully ladling into this delectable event, as well as their treasured contribution. An invitation, as most of you probably already know, is more than the words cradled on the inside. Just like a tasty morsel before the celebratory feast, it is the well-placed appetizer. An intentioned, beautiful invitation will be savored. I know, I have a number of them still mingled with keepsakes floating around my house that I randomly pull out to gaze on and re-roll around in my mouth in happy memory.

When crafting a good appetizer, or a good invitation, it’s always important to think about what you want it to embody. In the case of this first rite of passage, I wanted it to taste like beauty, home, the rich textures of womanhood, with a hint of mystery. I know that sounds like a lot of ingredients for a little invitation, but the presentation, or the first blush of a project, often paves the way for the love and intentionality that goes into the rest. Each card was hand crafted (there were only 9; the last a keepsake for a possible memory book from the event). The expense was time, not materials. Paper scraps, juicy vintage photos (actually copies of them), and inexpensive trinkets were the main contributions. And though they took some time to complete, the joy in knowing that each one would fly off to a glad recipient was more than worth it.

As you can see, I took photos of each of these little art pieces to remember the look of them as well as their significance in the entre of this new path of creating threshold experiences for my daughter and others. With a little glue, a meaningful quote or phrase, and a warmth imbued in a hand-scrawled signature, they were off, as was my imagination to what their journey could eventually bring back to my door . . .

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vintage mentorship

A first rite of passage: gathering the women

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three generations of “us”- Ginny, mom, and me

I want to lay down some history here. The story of creating a first rite of passage for my 14 year old daughter has a long and rich beginning, so I’ve decided to spend the first 8 or so posts breaking it into bite sized pieces. Taste and enjoy!

Who to pick? Who to pick? So many lovely, intelligent, wise women. Who to pick? Who to pick? So many interesting, fun-loving, enlivening, historied women. Who to pick? It was Ginny’s first rite of passage (and mine as well), and the criteria was slowly starting to form in my mind.

  • She has to be somebody Ginny enjoys as a person.
  • She has to be somebody Ginny looks up to in some way, conventionally, or unconventionally.
  • She has to be someone that Ginny could learn something from.
  • She has to be someone who loves Ginny- who really loves Ginny.

There were women who could fill out that list from so many places: close family, long time friends, spiritual mentors, women from our arts group, etc., but I wanted to limit myself to 9, including me. Not all the juicy, wonderful women I knew could participate in this round, but I knew that these amazing women in Ginny’s life could be included in another way that she would also deeply cherish (coming up in an upcoming blog entry!)

So I began with choosing my mother. Having the three generations of Cornett/Mammano/Schneider girls, growing together from the same family tree, all together at this event would be very special. And feeling held by her closest predecessors, would be a kind and loving act. I next thought of Ginny’s godmother, Tricia. She knew Ginny while I was housing her in my maternity clothes, she carted her in a backpack around Victoria, BC at 8 months, and she had been rooting for her with so much vigor and intention throughout her growing years. My thoughts then went to Sharon. Dear, dear friend who knew how to live out intellect, playfulness, and soulfulness, and had done just that in Ginny’s presence. Karmyn was always a favorite with both of my children. She knew how to embrace life with all of the joy, energy, and enthusiasm a human being could muster. She would definitely teach Ginny something valuable.

Her “Auntie Maril,” an honorary aunt in our little world embodied place, grace, and a combination of refinement and homespun beauty. She was a woman who was often an encouragement and a comfort in our lives. Next was Nancy. Through Montage, an artist’s group I have been a part of for nearly two decades, Ginny had been exposed to the incredible beauty, love, and wisdom of Nancy and her husband, Drew. She admired Nancy’s skill and creativity and would enjoy having her as part of this gathering. And last, but definitely not least, our friend and a-couple-of-neighborhoods away neighbor, Valerie. At the time, Valerie was somewhat of a newcomer in our lives, but I had known since the moment I met her that she was quality. She was a bright, funny, strong woman- an inspiration and a voracious reader! I now had my nine . . . I just had to ask them . . .

A welcome and a warm hello

a cup of tea in the room of stories

a cup of tea in the room of stories

My girl was turning 14. I looked up “rite of passage for women” online and got various stories of female circumcision and menstruation rites. With my nose crinkled, and the bottom falling out of my parental heart cavity, I knew I wanted something different than these options- something beautiful, something meaningful, something indelible. Shouldn’t every child have the chance to go through puberty with a bridge intact and shining adults holding hands on either side of it singing them into adulthood? Yes, my heart pumped, every child should.

Shining adults. I knew so many. My mom was one, kneeling at the side of my bed since childhood, ushering me into the world of spirit, praying in the darkness, while my eyes swirled in my head searching for connection to the otherworld. My good friend, Tricia was another. A pillar in my daughter’s life since birth. The one woman who took a stand to fight for dignity and freedom in my life when dignity and freedom were not a part of our family structure. My friend, Sharon would be another. Solid soul of commitment and questions. A beauty forging through the dusty paths of difficulty with at times, murky direction.  Nancy could be a third. Artist extraordinaire.  A sculptor from scraps. Her craft boasting both a method and a life lesson.

The list was filling out. But so many could have fit the bill: Karmyn, Maril, Valerie . . . . Each possible person could have filled it with a contribution, a purpose, a message, a gift they bring to this life. If it weren’t sculpting or praying or rescuing, it would be letter-writing or storytelling, or quilt-making. Each person has a part to play on the shining bridge . . .

which is why I’m choosing to write this blog.

I hope to::

  • explore the rich possibilities of rites of passage for girls
  • share life affirming examples from close at home and far way
  • provide a meeting place for ideas and encouragement in creating your own original celebrations

Thanks for joining me on this journey. I’m glad you’re here! I treasure every comment and look forward to responding to each one. See you on the shining bridge!