Second Rite of Passage Reflection: Ginny, the most memorable moment?

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“When I try to pull moments and events from my 18th rite of passage in order to categorize one or another as the most impactful or the most important, I can’t really. You see, they’re all woven into one experience and to separate them would be to unravel the thread and see something different altogether. So I was stumped, I couldn’t think of what would be the superlative moment; I didn’t know what to pick without picking all of it. But as I started to let the question settle in me the answer reverberated back in patches of color and sounds and gestures that conformed into many shapes, women shapes, Karmyn and Nancy shapes, Mom and Sharon and Jessie, Maril and Tricia shapes. Yeah, they were the best part. I guess I realized that I loved them not only because they were a part of my heritage, my mom’s support that was passed down to me, but that they represented a wonderful, colorful, real diversity of women.

Lately I get paralyzed with the idea of becoming an adult. Suddenly the freedom of choices and opportunity to trail blaze that so enthralled me when I was younger now stare me down and dare me to make the first move; and I feel like I’m shrinking. Like I’m going to implode. Sometimes the pressure around my head and heart is so tight I feel like I’m fighting my way through a birth canal that’s too small, and it is pushing me out regardless, as each approaching season brings another contraction, another inch closer to entering a new country- I don’t know where. I feel trapped by the bifurcation of where I will “inevitably” exist and live in for the next forty years. I know that this is hyperbolic, dichotomized, falsely, I hope, but it still feels that way a lot of the time.

But more than the events and projects, spontaneous dancing and art making, it’s the handful of women around me that gives me courage and better yet, a passion for my adulthood to come. They’re all so different, so dynamic and wholly themselves, creating life around them and for themselves that in their adulthood reflects their own unique passions, pursuits, and persons. Of course they, like everyone else, carry their younger selves in them still, but they didn’t get stuck at 18 or 20, they took her with them and stepped forward through one day at a time, and then they arrived-or rather are still arriving-at this other country called adulthood. It’s their specific and unique lifestyles and personalities that show me that my own life can and will be fashioned into something courageous, beautiful, and my own.”

– Ginny

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Second Rite of Passage: games and rosaries: now, it’s Ginny’s turn

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Sunday. After breakfast, it’s Ginny’s turn to present.

“Ginny, how many pieces of paper are needed for your game, ‘fax machine’?”

“There are six people, so booklets of six pages each.”

We began to play.

“Write down a random phrase, pass it to your left, read it, draw a picture about what you read, pass it on, draw a picture about what you read, etc. until we’re done.”

Let’s see, it quickly degenerates. “Climbing Mt. Whitney while eating a mooseburger” becomes “an angel climbs a volcano with an offering- a winged cheeseburger.”

Seriously . . . .

“Tell us what your other activity is, Ginny.”

“About a year ago, I made a rosary of beads to pray for my friends. I was inspired one day when I was in Saint Peregine’s chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano. As a matter of fact, this is one of the original beads I chose for my friend. The colors makes it look like flames are coming up at the bottom. She is a passionate person, so the flames describe her, but the bead is also transparent, like she is. You can see through it. She has been going through some hard times with her family, so this helps me remember to pray for her  . . . choose beads that represent a person, or a situation, or a place in your life and put it on the wire. I use the rosary for a keychain, but you can bend it anyway you like. It’s pretty flexible. A friend reminded me not to forget to choose a bead for yourself.”

And so that was our assignment.

I see a caramel colored bead I choose for our family’s current transitions. A blue, red, and white one for Ginny herself, for passion, for purity. A teardrop shaped one alongside four others- remembering a family going through a tough separation.  A rosary strung for those loved near and those loved far away.  Sunlight on the beads. Crystals and clay. Pearls and wood. Brown and gold and aquamarine blue. The weekend will soon be coming to an end. Only five lovely ladies left, plus one, newly entering the realm of the tribe, the realm of long histories, insatiable  laughter, tempered wisdom, and a healthy mix of childhood dancing with middle age and laugh lines.

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Second rite of passage: imagining your contribution

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Round two: everyone contributes! My job? To create a fun container for people to place their delectable and teachable offerings. And so, what to do? How to begin? Take one artist, one experienced game-player, two teachers, one journal-writer, a dancer, and a culinary dabbler and throw them into a big wide corrugated cardboard box (not really). Shake ’em around a bit, throw them onto the table like so many dice, and what do you get? All sorts of possibilities!!

Well, I didn’t do that exactly, but I did metaphorically! I invited the rite of passage mentors/participants to think about what they might like to teach Ginny. Since the theme was “building community” I asked them to think about a fun activity that might help Ginny learn to create a sense of community where she was soon moving to.

Some took off with great ideas from the get-go. Others needed a little gentle massaging, but what did I get in the end?

An amazing community art project we all engaged in and gifted to Ginny. A first hand view of building a seven course meal for a friendly gathering. A lesson in meaningful journaling. A frolicking twist on traditional game-playing. A literary brainstorm on sharing personal history with a crowd. And a jaunt into morning meditation and hand massage to promote self-care, care for others, and welcoming the day. Could a collection of mini-workshops be more diverse, engaging or interesting? I think not!!

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Small Bites: poem, “Learning to Dance”

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Ginny and John hanging out as brother and sister before meeting up with their dates for the prom.

It’s a great month to create collections of poetry that reflect thresholds in our  lives. Gathering a meaningful collection of quotes or poetry and storing it in a journal or a laptop can become a sacred space or resting place to enter into when you just need to be reminded of those “certain” things that we so often forget- those things that change with the ingredients of time and experience, such as: awkwardness at 13 can lead to elegance at 30, stammering in middle school can evolve into eloquence in graduate school, and a first dance in adolescence can be the doorway into the school of life experience. Here’s a lovely example of this by poet, Charles Fishman. Feel free to sit in the hammock of his words for awhile:

Learning to Dance, 1956

For Marlene Broich

It was the 50s, and all of us

were kids, but you were older—

almost a woman—and you would

teach me to dance. You were

the dark-haired child in a family

of blondes, slightly exotic, wilder,

my best friend’s sister.

In your father’s basement,

you took my hand and showed me

how to hold you—how to hold

a woman. I was fourteen and knew

already how to be awkward. You knew

I was falling into shadows.

When I breathed 
your hair, I was no longer in the forest

but had broken through

to a clearing where tall grasses whispered

and swayed, where white-petalled daisies

and violet clover blossomed in profusion.

You moved me deeper into the music

and made a meadow spring up around me.

Your body showed me that I had strength

to change the moment, if only the quiet

power of a summer breeze . . .

When you said I would be a good dancer,

that I had rhythm

that I could swing,

I held you close: some day,

I would find the one

who would pull me near to her in love,

not mercy; I would dance with her

and learn her secret names.

Crossing the threshold: a poem marking a daughter’s 13th year

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April is National Poetry Month. Honoring a threshold for yourself or your child can be marked by writing a simple piece of poetry. Bittersweet. Insanely happy. Contentedly present. All are valid emotions and valid ways of marking the passages in our lives. Here’s one I wrote marking my daughter’s 13th year awhile back:

A Chunk of Me

walked out the door

with size 2 pants and a

skateboard shirt.

I don’t know how

to bring her back;

she will experience my world

in size 12-year-old thoughts,

I will experience hers

in size 39.

I reel back the invisible

fishing line

I’ve attached to her

ankles

in the hope of synthesizing

her soul back into mine,

but like all good fish,

she slips away.

– Gina Marie Mammano

First rite of passage reflection: collecting rite words

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a place for inspiration: afternoon light in a chapel in Plain, WA

On my search for the “rite” words to inspire me and others on this creative journey toward a meaningful mentored celebration for my daughter, I wish I would have come across this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

But I didn’t. There were pale samplings of written fare that spoke about painful rites practiced on girls over the centuries. There were interesting menstruation rituals I looked at quite shyly. And there were more luscious ceremonies like those in India where girls are given a new sari, sprinkled with fragrant water, and donned with a crown of flowers. But none of these were traditions embedded in our own experiences, our own culture (and at times, I admit I was grateful). I was looking for something not beautiful and borrowed, but something that resonated in the caverns of our own sense of places and spaces, here, where we are living.

Our culture, or at least my culture, didn’t have a precedent for rites of passage, so creating my own seemed like a good place idea. Perhaps my daughter would pass our new traditions on to her own daughter someday, and on and on until new traditions became established, familiar, even cherished ones. When you start from scratch on most anything, you have to  brush the top layers away until you get to rockbed. And rockbed for me was touched upon by asking these types of questions: what kind of gathering would allow for the sharing of stories to ease the pain of being alone in the adolescent years? what gifts of wisdom would be most worthwhile to Ginny? how can I craft an experience that allows her to walk away feeling loved, affirmed, and more clear-eyed in gazing at who she truly is? how can I provide a fun and exuberant release so our time together is not excessively heavy?

These questions and thoughts were the touchstones to ponder. They would help form the new words I’d be sculpting from. I would eventually collect and add others on: symbol, feasting, keepsake, music, blessing. I would look to these key thoughts to be my inspiration to hold closely in the desire to share extravagantly with my daughter the riches of being a woman at the nascency of this rare and precious journey.

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hand painted peace flags dancing in the wind

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