Second Rite of Passage: a keepsake

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The next rite of passage offering was gifted by an artist. A chance to play in fields of color; a chance for our hands to dive and swim in mulberry paper and magazines.

On the table, made of oilcloth, Ginny was told to pick out a palate of colors: gossamer blue, feathery green, spring sprout, geranium, Grand Canyon, gentle eggplant, sedate lavender, and jungle trail. Those were the choices she made. The palette was set.

Each woman was given a wooden plaque. “There are a few rules to creating a community art project,” Nancy announced. “And I want to remind everyone, though each will be making an individual piece, it is about Ginny and her palette.”  It will all be unified in the end.

On the table is a sea of wrapping paper. Painted paper. Pictures. Words written 80 years ago in longhand on old letters. Maps. Mod Podge glue. A large well-used paint brush.

There is placing and choosing. Picking and tearing and reconstructing. In an hour or so, we were finished. We then are asked to share with Ginny our decoupaged gifts to her.

“Mine has a swirl in a sea of pink because when I think of Ginny, I think of whimsy. But I chose the words, ‘wonder’ and  ‘a sweet white dress’ in handmade scrawl because there’s also innocence and wonder about her.”

“I chose a plover, because they dig deep. Ginny digs deep.”

“I made a river, because Ginny forges her own path.”

“Mine contains a cross and the quote: ‘when the eagle soars in the endless blue, its shadow races after, far below. Yet space does not divide; bird and shadow are linked. So each act-each choice and consequence.”

“I’m going to bawl. I wrote ‘raised to the light,’ because I know Ginny’s history and I know, she’s been continually raised to the light. When we were meditating, I had the image of a plant twisting upward, to the light, like Ginny.  There were some hard years in her past. She stands before us today, a miracle—a child raised to the light!  I included green growing shapes, and a thrust of color upward.”

“Deliberate. I want to do things in a deliberate way,” Ginny saidregarding the purple and white collage she made with the bits of deckled paper going over the edges.

“Explore. I see the maps and the possibilities and the feather-leaf as light as flight. Explore.”

Nine plates of color, meaning, and collaged interpretations of what Ginny is to eight different women. Soon it will be a centerpiece for tonight’s dinner table.

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Second Rite of Passage: a word, a bird, and a hand massage

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As I mentioned, the bulk of the weekend were experiential “gifts” from all of the women invited to Ginny’s second rite of passage. This was the best kind of present as it left an indelible mark of the giver’s presence in my daughter’s life. Here’s a taste of the first offerings as reflected in my juicy juicy journal:

“After a while, a migration was made into the den, the place of last night’s nest. Karmyn quietly encouraged us to open up our chests and hearts to the new day. A stretch towards the sky. Then a train of massages, back, then back, then back. Shoulders, shoulders, shoulders. Gentle music of peace and old time hymnody. Partners scattered in twins across the room. Almond oil. Aromatic lotions. A time to massage the hands of one another. Sharon’s hand slips like a fish in and out of mine. Rub. Squeeze. It’s amazing- the topography of hands: muscles, bones, freckles, gradations in skin tone. The rich smell of thick almond lotion pasted on hands. A joyful swish of Karmyn’s long hair and a blessing, and the movement moves on. . . .

Scattered on the ground are: “Birds of North America”, Tricia’s birding journal posted with stamps and stories, poetry and quotations, and blank white stickers.

“When I was in Belize for three years,” she says, “there was not a lot to do.”

She took up birding. It helped her make the jungle her home. Neo-tropic birds. Memorable moments. Calls that called to her, “I think you’re pretty! I think you’re pretty!” she thought she heard one bird say.

She reminds us that the books tell us that every bird has a color, has a call, has a place and asks us to find three things in us to share that make a place a home.

“A potted plant to care for. Photographs of the old life and the new. A local textile for the bed.  Mapping out the geography of place. Sinking deep into the history of where you are. These are a few. And then, find three things we want to look for in a relationship, just like the characteristics of neo-tropic birds. The plumage is not the most important. Look for compassion in the eyes. Have the same migration path. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Laugh. Laugh together. Laugh with and at each other. Laugh. Then think of three things we must do, our life lists, like a birding life list, three things. Kayak at night. Full immersion in the local custom. Hike every trail in the Sierras. Plant a garden. Those are a few. There are so many more.”

These were the things we were to chew on at local restaurant. So much to share with one another in the world of journeying women. What might be your contribution? What journey would you take the rest of us on in that bright hour?

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Second Rite of Passage: blessing the nest

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It was a full evening. A very full evening. (I was still feeling that coconut cream pie . . .)

We trickled into the room where the nest would be set. A special resting place for Ginny that night that would be the equivalent of a quilted “nest”. Patchworks and crazies draped over the couches down into a cozy spot on the carpet. Color and color and color and color. We would tuck her into it that night and say a blessing over her.

“Ginny, I want to read to you Marianne Williamson’s quote: ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure . . .'”

“Ginny, I bless you with the gift of good sleep. Ma and Pa Ingalls talked about doing the ‘work that belonged to that day,’ and then resting. Good sleep is a blessing- the ability to sleep deeply and peacefully, and it’s something I pray for you, Ginny!”

“I give you the blessing of confidence and knowing who you are, gifts and foibles alike.”

We closed down the sun with best quilt of all: the quilt of a blessed sleep.

Good-night, Ginny. Until tomorrow . . . .

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Second Rite of Passage: This One’s for the Girls!

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Now, you can’t leave a kid with only tunes from troubled teen-hood, can you? You’ve got to bring her up to date with your current “poems, prayers, and promises” (well, in a manner of speaking).

The next activity up for sharing was “a desired anthem”- the song we wish we could have heard in our late teens. As we shared our picks, we realized we were not only singing them to Ginny, but also to ourselves. It was salve to the heart . . . . Here’s a few tidbits from a few songs. Imagine getting to hear these lyrics sung to you as a young woman:

“Her face is a map of the world, is a map of the world. And you can see she’s a beautiful girl, she’s a beautiful girl. And everything around her is a silver pool of light. The people who surround her feel the benefit of it. It makes you calm. She holds you captivated in her palm. Suddenly I see, this is what I want to be . . .” from Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall.

“In the easy silence that you make for me, it’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me, and the peaceful quiet you create for me, and the way you keep the world at bay for me . . . the way you keep the world at bay . . .” from Easy Silence by the Dixie Chicks.

“So sit down and write that letter, sign up and join the fight, sink in to all that matters, step out into the light . . . so many years from now long after we are gone these trees will spread their branches out and bless the dawn . . .” from Planting Trees by Andrew Peterson.

“Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces, calling out the best of who we are, and I want to add to the beauty to tell a better story; I want to shine with the light that’s burning up inside . . .” from Add to the Beauty by Sara Groves.

“This one’s for the girls who’ve ever had a broken heart who’ve wished upon a shooting star; you’re beautiful the way you are; this one’s for the girls who love without holding back, who dream with everything they have all around the world; this one’s for the girls,

yeah, this one’s for the girls . . .” from This One’s for the Girls by Martina McBride.

You get the picture . . . . what song would you have wanted to hear at age 18?

Second Rite of Passage: face the music!

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Of course, we needed to share our musical wisdom with my daughter at this second rite of passage event! So much to glean from The Cure, The Bangles, or Sting! I introduced this portion of the evening, bellies still interiorly stuck with pot pie, mashed potatoes and love:

“We’ve all picked songs that meant something to us when we were in the transition time between high school and college. When it’s your turn to share your song, describe why you chose it, the circumstances behind it, or what it meant to you without revealing the title or the artist.”

The women played their music and shared truly, madly, deeply:

” . . . was an early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn . . .”

“I played this song over and over when I made the trip from Florida to South Carolina and back again. It represents freedom. It was a time in my life when I could feel the wind in my hair and was ready for a new adventure. I still love it. I just played it again on a trip just a few weeks ago.”

Bah, 2-3-4 bah, 2-3-4 bah, bump-bump-a! Bah . . . .

Elton John. “I’m Still Standing.” My song. “When I graduated high school, my boyfriend and I broke up. This song helped me bridge through the sorrow. It strengthened me through it.”

“I know this song sounds so trite. . .I was a cheerleader at my high school and it was a time in my life, in our lives, when we were trying to figure it all out:”

“I close my eyes, only for a moment and the moment’s gone . . . dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.”

“We had this whole album memorized.” John Denver’s Poems, Prayers, and Promises begins to play. “This song especially speaks to the things to me that life is all about. It reminded me of home.” The quiet folk guitar picking peters out.

“Now, going from one extreme to the next . . . as class president four years in a row, I had to invoke school spirit, so we had a routine to this song.”

Love Shack.

“Show us!”

“Do you see a little shack on the side of the road . . .?”

Yes, the whole shack shimmied. The whole shack shimmied.

And then, a rough-hewn voice and a twangy guitar:

“I never wanted to be better than my friends I just wanted to prove wrong the people in my head.” Ginny’s turn. “I chose this song because, for one thing, I can’t choose another that I wish I could have heard at 18, because I am 18, so this is the song I’m choosing now, at this time in my life.” “So I rode my bike like lightning and I made cappuccinos that would make the angels sing, took two showers a day and I dressed up like a princess, shook my fist in my own face and said I’ll show you who’s the best!”

Again, an opportunity to share, and to be shared with. Ginny glistened with awe and wonder (and a barely noticeable wry smile) as she watched us confess our teenage hearts . . . “lookin’ like a true survivor, feelin’ like a little kid . . .”

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Second rite of passage: ample room for playfulness

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A taste of what I’m talking about, and then an explanation:

“Two patchwork quilts, a crazy quilt, a wedding ring quilt, and a wrapping-paper-wrapped quilt enter through the front door. Boxes, bags, ice chests, c.d.s follow.  “Let’s play last time’s Rite of Passage c.d.!”

A few Charleston strokes of the foot. Some old fashioned turns. Finger wagging in 1920’s style. “Put another nickel in, in the Nickelodeon, all I want to listen to is music, music, music.”

“This one is Sharon’s.” Someone says.

“Really, this one’s mine?”

“Yes!”

“Laughed as she came to my cradle. No, this child will be able. With love, with patience and with faith. She’ll make her way . . .”

“Don’t you remember?”

“I do now!”

Someone nods and points to Ginny. A few appropriately mimed moves, “I’m a challenge, to your balance.” A slide and a glide from Sharon and myself. A finish and final flourish of the song.

Then the raunch of a digerydoo, “oh, here it is!”

Dar Williams. “As Cool as I Am.” The long sung kitchen anthem of our tribe. Spoons are often microphones. Most of us know it. All of us know what it means. “You tried to make me doubt, to make me guess, tried to make me feel like a little less. Oh, I liked it when your soul was bared. I thought you knew how to be scared. And now it’s amazing what you did to make me stay. But truth is just like time, it catches up and it just keeps going . . .”

The miming ensues. . . an arm is flung to the sky; a sauntering back and forth, helplessly waiting for the outbound stage. . .

Goofy? Yes! Funny? Of course. Fun? Absolutely. Playful? Unabashedly! I have found that creating a rite of passage can be just as fun for the “adults” as it is for the burgeoning edges-and-fringes-of-adulthood woman . . . and here’s a little tip (ssshhhh, don’t tell!). The teenager can often be caught staring up smitten in helpless wonder at all of these grown ups having a good time! A pricelessly valuable lesson indeed! My daughter actually said to me, “Mom, why don’t you do this with your friends more???”

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Second Rite of Passage: food, glorious food!!

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This time, instead of highlighting a favorite cuisine drummed up by the honored rite of passager, I chose to wallow comfortably in a different direction. Hmmm . . . or should I say Mmmmm . . . what was your favorite comfort food in your teens? That’s the question I asked all the participating ladies for Ginny’s second rite of passage in an email several weeks before, then requested they all bring their comfy contributions to our opening evening potluck.

As we sat down to table, I began the feasting with a quote to honor the theme of the evening. “On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally’s cellar.”- Thomas Jefferson.

Yes, give this decadent indulence historical backing, that’s what I say!

I continue to reflect on the marvelousness of this moment of cozy culinary array:

“Comfort foods. Delicious, creamy, amazing, comfort foods. From our childhood. From our teenage years. From adulthood. A girl is sitting on a bed in the heat of Kansas summer with a plate of cheese, crackers, and grapes, a book in her hand and the fan on high. That’s one woman’s version. Tearing through the front door on an autumn La Mirada afternoon and hit with the smell of homemade chili and cornbread after a day at school. The anticipation of the pleasure. The desire. That’s mine. Coming home from college and knowing that the requested day-long-in-the-making heirloom lasagne awaits the five home-comers. That’s another’s. No-bake cookies laced with chocolate and peanut butter from mom’s kitchen in Michigan. And yet, one more. Ours for the night: cheesy hash brown casserole, heirloom lasagne, chicken pot pie, sautéed spinach, and coconut cream pie. Heavy on the comfort. Heavy, heavy on the comfort. Stories of food and family. Heavy on the comfort.”

And that my friends, is how we began . . . .!

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