First rite of passage: a celebration is in order!

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moving and grooving to the likes of Celia Cruz

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Ginny and I celebrating to Squirrel Nut Zippers

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Could this be a reprisal sing-along to Dar Williams’ “As Cool As I Am”?

“Everything is created from moment to moment, always new. Like fireworks, this universe is a celebration and you are the spectator contemplating the eternal Fourth of July of your absolute splendor.” – Francis Lucille

Nice. What a good quote. It feels magical and momentous, just like a good celebration. The culmination of a rite of passage with one 14 year old girl, and 9 committed, experience-laden, long-distance-driving women had to end with an all-out doozy of a fireworks show, not literally, of course.

I tailored the celebration to what I had (let’s see, some blue and red tissue paper, some pre-used paper luminarias, twinkly lights, and who was coming: “Karmyn, could you lead us in some riotous celebratory dancing?”) and we were off! Gyrating to the Gypsy Kings, holding hands to the Tarantella, and stepping the steps of the hava nagila. Then as a culmination, we rocked out and Irish danced to a collection of Ginny’s favorites that I had put together on a c.d..

We ate, danced, and made merry. The room of celebration (which took place in my backyard) was fully regaled with women feeling the fullness of life and community. And a girl, as they danced in her honor, looked on with amazement and wonder.

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” – Ray Bradbury

 

Rite of passage licorice pizza (oh, yeah, records!): what were you spinning at 14?

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All right, all you readers, followers, and passers-by on Shining Bridges! This is your chance to share your most memorable song at age 13, 14, or 15! We’d love to hear it! Think back to those days in junior high or high school. What song made your heart beat a little faster, tickled your adolescent fancy, or felt like whenever it came on the radio, or played on your turntable or cd player it was “your song”. If you know a few of the lyrics, post those as well. I’m sure it will give some of us a knowing smile. And I’d love an explanation of what this song meant to you . . . (what fun this could be hearing from folks at home and friends from other parts of the world . . . and genders . . . yes, guys! We’d love to hear from you, too!)

And, if you’d like, include a song you know now that you would have loved to have heard at that age; perhaps it would have encouraged, motivated, or given you a new perspective on things- shifted your internal paradigm a bit and made it a bit shinier!

Bring it on! Let the sharing (and the music) begin!!

First rite of passage special post: a little musical foray

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

That first conclave of quilts and women draped around my living room did not invoke a cool deep dip in the pools of contemplation. It brought on a raucous, riotous sharing of a variety of music ranging from artists like the Indigo Girls to Marlo Thomas (yes, Marlo Thomas; do you remember the album “Free to Be You and Me”?). As I mentioned in the previous post, women could choose songs that piqued their teenage interest at age 13, 14, or 15, and/or they could choose songs that speak to them today- those tunes that would have been an important voice in their adolescent lives, if they could’ve had access to them back then.

A smattering of the offerings that first rite of passage day included songs like “Let It Be Me” by the Indigo girls (if the world is ni-ight, shine my life like a light, great song, hold up your cell phones or lighters and sway, please!), “Trouble Me” by 10,000 Maniacs (there’s more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see. Trust is what I’m offering if you trouble me . . .), and “As Cool As I Am” by Dar Williams (I will not be afraid of women . . . I will not be . . . afraid of women, great song with a powerful message, trust me).

Some lyrics were light-hearted, others, serious or powerful. But Ginny, getting to experience the rich explanations and stories behind these choices (after the optional sing-along portion of the program), allowed her a picture-window into the lives of these mentor-women at a time in their lives much like hers. I remember looking at Ginny’s face, noticing moments of comfort, recognition, and uncontainable glee as she watched these valued women chanting their teenage stories, no holds barred, through the vehicle of music.

And now, looking ahead to  my next post . . .  hmmmm . . . I wonder what songs were burbling in your teenage brain back in the day? . . . .  more to follow.

First rite of passage: music! music! music!

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Maril reading the lyrics to an important song from her teen years.

I first came up with the idea when I thought back to those days in junior high school, and asked myself, “what was I listening to back then?” And then the follow up question, “what do I wish I would have heard back then?”

After pondering those two questions and reliving the experiences related to the answers, I realized that collecting important music in people’s lives helps share the hopes and struggles of a moment in time. I wanted the exploring of music as personal time capsule to be a learning place for Ginny on others’ timelines. This desire eventually became a solid piece in the puzzle of creating a memorable rite of passage for my daughter.

Most of us, I believe, have connected with music at particular times in our lives, and some of  us, at almost every moment of our lives. Maybe it was the lyrics: “day after day it reappears, night after night, my heartbeat shows the fear, ghosts appear and fade away . . . (Overkill by Men At Work)” or it could have been the overall message: “love is like oxygen, you get too much, you get too high, not enough and you’re going to die . . . . (Love is Like Oxygen by Sweet).” Regardless, music often had an impact and became a touchstone for a certain transition in our lives, good or bad.

So I invited the women of this first rite of passage to dig into their memories, and pull out songs that had an impact on their lives during their 14th year, or thereabouts. When the songs of both tragedy and triumph were busted out at the event (yes, even “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music), there was much laughter, and a few tears, as well as some robust singing along as one of the women d.j.ed the compilation c.d (later given out to guests), as it played out parts of our earlier selves.

We still play that collection six years later, sometimes dancing without reserve and singing with complete abandon into our plastic soup ladles.

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Ginny, listening to the women with glee and wonder.

First rite of passage: honoring with food

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a feast of Indian cuisine

A daughter’s choices for what to lay out onto the groaning board may not be the same as her mother’s. Me, I enjoy a plethora of samplings from baklava to petit fours, and then a hearty helping of rich, red Italian food (or, should that be the other way around? No. Dessert really should be first.) My daughter, Ginny, would probably choose a plateful of sushi, some recently harvested loose leaf tea, and a whole host of Indian entrees from tikka massala to  aloo gobi. . . and that is exactly what we served on her first rite of passage that Saturday afternoon, with a few spanakopita on the side.

Preparing and serving food to another can be a way of honoring them as well. When we choose to nurture another’s body through good food, we also nurture their unique tastes when we let them share with us the things that bring their taste buds joy. It is like opening a window into their gastronomy, and sometimes it leads to opening doors into our own, as well as trips to markets and restaurants we didn’t even know existed in this world. (Yes, tikka massala is now one of my favorites; I crave that lovely, creamy, orangey-red sauce; I’d better stop, my mouth is salivating).

So to honor Ginny, age 14, at her first rite of passage, I snuck questions in and around our conversations, regarding her favorite foods. “I’m going to the store, honey. I’m not saying I’m going to get any of the things you say, but if you could pick anything out for dinner this week, what would you pick? I mean anything!?” (I’m sure there are other, even less obvious ways in and around the question.)

On the day of her rite of passage, the honoring of Ginny’s taste buds was in full swing; there was hot tea in antique cups, sushi in round sticky circles on a platter, crunchy triangles of Greek spanakopita, and a healthy offering of Indian food. And I have to say, every stomach was satisfied because every stomach seemed ready for the adventure.

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another cake from another celebration, but you get the idea! let it explode with enthusiasm!

First rite of passage: creating spaces

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paper and lace doily luminarias in “the room of celebration”

We were living in a beige neighborhood with stucco walls and neutral carpet (the accepted uniform for houses in the area). We weren’t raking in the bucks at our current jobs, so reserving an ultra rarified space with wooden floors and haloed light was not an option for this rite of passage. In fact, renting a space didn’t even rent any space in my mind at the time. As the granddaughter of Angelina Castellino Mammano, Sicilian immigrant and crafter of household wall art from broken bottles and dress-making scraps, I knew that making do was the right thing to do.

I had already formed a plan for theming each room for the event. I wanted a room of stories for sharing adolescent gems from the diaries of memory, a room of wisdom to gift Ginny with symbols of growth into womanhood, a room of blessing to pour words of hope and affirmation over my daughter’s body and soul, and a “room” of celebration to party till the twinkly lights shined no more!

Combining “making do” with these themed elements was my challenge. How could I make a room of stories a warm and safe place to mine the treasures of the historied heart? How would I make a room of wisdom that honors my daughter’s own sensibilities of beauty and taste? Could a room of blessing become a holy space without wooden floors, sacred echoes, and sanctified ceilings? What space could best hold a feast and a riotously celebratory dance party all at the same time?

Well, with a call out to a couple of women included in the special day for suggestions and ideas, as well as a gathering, yes, an actual gathering of materials in my living room of things I had on hand (quilts, fancy fabrics, folk art carvings, photographs, mis-matched tea cups!), I created simple, but beautiful spaces that held what I had hoped my home would house most on that important day: a homespun montage of warmth and meaning.

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My daughter relishes the “room of wisdom”

Considering International Women’s Day: words of the wise woman

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In honor of International Women’s day, I thought I’d share with you some annotated readings generously described by my good friend and beautifully bookish woman and librarian, Valerie. Included are the initial note from Valerie to my daughter on her first rite of passage, and descriptions of the books given to her. They might be good suggestions for your daughter, or even for yourself on this or any day! Written by both women and men, it is an inspiring collection indeed. Enjoy!

Ginny,

I am so honored to be a part of your Rite of Passage ceremony!

I really had to think long and hard about what I could present to you that would be meaningful and timeless.

I’m not an artist, nor a poet, nor a musician.  After searching my heart and mind I felt the one thing I had to offer was my love of literature.  Not only are my bachelors and masters degrees in English literature but I have worked in public libraries for 17 years, and for the last six years with the California State Library.  I am a book woman!

I know I owe my identity in large part to books (especially fiction) and I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorites that capture some of the significance of what you are experiencing tonight…

Lots of love,

Valerie

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf is the mother of all 20th and 21st century writers in my mind.  She was brilliant and keenly aware of the way her prospects were limited because she was female. In this book she answers the patriarchs who have asked her, “If it’s true that women have the ability to write, why are there so few books written by women?”  In 1929, of course, there were very few published women authors.  Woolf patiently tries to answer this flawed logic, essentially saying that for women to flourish in the arts, society must support women in the arts: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction…”

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I read this when I was your age and then again as an adult (just a few months ago) and in both cases I was deeply moved by its rich portrayal of the transition from childhood to womanhood. Francie Nolan envisions herself as a writer at a very young age and just holds onto that dream until she can make it a reality.  Poverty, her alcoholic father and his premature death, her mother’s overt preference for her brother, and even her first love and heartbreak, do not incapacitate her, instead they provide her with raw material for her writing…

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  by Maya Angelou

Of the 100 most frequently banned books between 1990 and 2000, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ranked number 3!  That should be motivation enough to read this book 😉 , but you will also be blown away by Maya Angelou’s brutal honesty as she relates her harrowing childhood.  Like Francie, Marguerite (Maya) copes with her pain by writing, using even the worst moments as raw material for her art. And in the course of the writing, she begins to heal.  Why a book that is as beautiful and candid as this has been repeatedly banned is one of life’s great ironies…


The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

If you can imagine the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table told from the perspective of women, then you can imagine this book.  It is enchanted, enchanting and empowering.  Have fun!

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

Perhaps nowhere else in the world does a culture so graphically express its misogyny as China .The Woman Warrior relates how mid-wives used to keep a box of clean ashes near the birth mother to smother the baby in case it was a girl.  But this story also depicts swordswomen and women doctors – women of power and authority.  The challenge for our young Chinese-American protagonist – and for all young women really – is to reconcile all of the contradictory images of the feminine that barrage us, and to establish our own singular identity.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Well here’s a picture book because I think books for children are often so eloquent and yet a lot fun.  I thought of you when I selected this and how you are a budding writer.  The Dot’s message is to trust your voice.  We’re all occasionally plagued with self-doubt – but don’t let that ever stop you from writing.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

If I had to select one book that has sustained me more than any other; a book that has been a fixture on my nightstand for as long as I can remember: this is the book.  Don’t read The Prophet from cover to cover but go to the table of contents and select the topic where you would like guidance.  These include love, friendship, good and evil, self-knowledge and many more. I find that you can read these chapters over and over and each time find new meaning.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

I know you’ve already read this, maybe more than once!  Did you know that Island of the Blue Dolphins is based on the true story of a Native American girl who was accidentally abandoned on an island off the coast of Santa Barbara in the early 19th century?  She fended for herself on the island for 18 years before she was discovered and taken back to the mainland.  The story of Karana provides a simple metaphor for life: you can have every advantage – family, friends, brains, beauty, talent – but at the end of the day you must rely on yourself to get over life’s hurdles.  It is how you apply the gifts that you have been given that reflects who you are.

Happy reading!