I walk around the elementary school of my childhood. Its cracked sidewalk has never changed. This brings me comfort. Old rusty fences that still are marked “1955” are the brave sentinels that somehow let people and dogs through their beleaguered locks. I stare into the old school office- same flesh colored counter, the turnaround where I waited for a ride after Brownie scouts, the old paper bark tree- still there. Pepper tree, jacaranda, smooth eucalyptus with wrinkles in its skin. Still there, old friend. The runway on the playground where I took off in flight. Still providing lift off, but now with a heavier plane. The planter where we circled up and sang whiney old ballads, and the parking lot where we carried cakes to the PTA bake auction, still there. The back stop where Debby Cogley and I “hid” homemade Wonka’s peanut butter chocolate bars from 3rd grade boys, still there. The silver hallway poles, whirling magic sticks as entryways into the Charlotte Anthony Halloween Carnival, still there, the cafeteria, the place where a junior Girl Scout pulled me onto her lap and made this 5 year old feel special, still there. Not much has changed in the hardware. A lot has changed in the soft ware, but the ghosts of kindness, blessing, and memory still haunt and bless the halls.Walking that place makes them feel real once again. I am so glad. So grateful.
Another taste of that “good medicine” flowing out during ordinary time is that of visiting the “memory keeper”. Those places in your mind and soul that hold where we’ve been and the lessons we’ve learned. No, not always the big, difficult ones, but the little ones we’ve forgotten we’ve found on the side of the road, like wildflowers picked at just the right moment.
I took a brief trek into my childhood days recently, meandering back in time, climbing up a small hiking path to a white rock at the top of a place in Idyllwild, California, that had some sort of magic or sacredness to it. I recollected the crunch of pebbles against mountain earth beneath my feet, my knees, the feeling of being 11 years old, wide open, and trusting the process, through passages of sweat and naivete. I took the time to try to re-travel that hike from that day, in my mind’s eye, in order to recapture the freshness, the smallness of myself, as well as the places I was and now am in spirit. There was a bit of writing involved as I revisited that moment, and much reflecting, but I found that a side trip with the “memory keeper” was a good idea. It helped re-collect the precious lessons learned at that time and how they translate into this time. It helped me gather some stems of gratitude in my day’s “ordinary” bouquet.
I recommend this. Like staring at clouds, and indulging in moments that others would consider “wasted”, recollecting is making a long term investment in your soul, at least, that’s what I think.
The author, Jamie Sams, once again got me wandering in this delicious direction, and a few words came out of it from my direction:
was a time we climbed
with scraped kneecaps- tender-boned turtle-shells,
the holy mountain, the white stone, “Skyland”.
We had heard there was a cross there, sacred monument
that scraped the sky and punctured the skin between earth
and heaven. . .
wandering, searching for the intersection of life and death,
the compass rose of sky . . . .
– Gina Marie Mammano
May your memory keeper show you paths bedecked and deckled with wildflowers.
One of the tunes I chose to share at my daughter’s first rite of passage was a real tear-jerker. I didn’t choose it for that reason. It was a song recorded by Nanci Griffith that happened to pluck at my heartstrings just at that moment, resonating with the internal music of my daughter’s coming of age. The song was “Turn Around” and I’ve included the lyrics further below.
Sometimes you need to make room for the rite of passage (your own) within the rite of passage (your child’s). Don’t negate your own feelings during this time of change. Honor them as well. As your daughter, or son, is crossing a threshold, so are you. Your shining bridge is a parallel one to theirs- equally important, equally paved with bitter and sweet. Take the time to take the time. Savor the flavors of this journey for yourself. “Turn around” for just a moment.
“Turn Around”- composed by Harry Belafonte, Alan Greene and Malvina Reynolds
Where are you goin’ my little one, little one? Where are you goin’ my baby, my own?
Turn around and you’re two
Turn around and you’re four
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door
Turn around, turn around, turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door
Where are you goin’ my little one, little one? Little dirndles and petticoats, where have you gone?
Turn around and you’re tiny
Turn around and you’re grown
Turn around and you’re a young wife with babes of your own . . .
Kind of old fashioned lyrics, I know, but it spoke to some ancient mothering place inside of me . . . perhaps to you as well.
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.