Preparing for change: saying good-bye at 18

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After my daughter’s rite of passage, when she crossed the threshold of leaving home and entering a new adventure into serving a low-income neighborhood in Chicago at age 18, I found that marking that event for myself, its joy and sorrow, helped create a salve for my heart. It embraced the moment with all of its gratitudes and difficulties.

Missing

My genetics are pasted

to your internal wall,

muscle connects muscle

across the skyline,

and I, like a fishing line,

cast my thoughts into

your inward diaries.

All I get now is

a wave of light,

a face, a whisper

from the faraway,

a stroke of hair

teased out by sunlight,

a word that tinkles

and stitches out

the seamline

of your voice,

a vast swath of sunrise

that sketches out

the color palette of

your being,

something in the

air that tells me

you

are

in

the world.

– Gina Marie Mammano

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Your child: a thank you assessment

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Yesterday, our household celebrated two intricately tied events: my son’s 19th birthday and Mother’s Day. It was a chance to both honor the child brought into the world on that fine May afternoon (all nine and some odd pounds of him) and the one that hefted that oversized boy around in the primordial stew of embryo en utero (sounds fancy and French, doesn’t it?)

Such a stars-aligned event brought about another unique opportunity: to make a fairly comprehensive list of appreciations for the united act of motherhood and childhood. To take 15 minutes or so out to carve a personal thank-you note on the stationary of my computer was a worthwhile experience. I find that when creating a list of appreciations, the more detailed the better. Small is beautiful (think petit fours or diamond earrings). Little specifics make the gratitude both palatable and real. Here’s a few of mine. What are yours?

gratitudes when contemplating motherhood:

receiving texts that simply say, “love you, mama. good night.”

my son snuggling up closer to me during a movie because, “it might be a bit scary for you, mom”

my daughter alluding to our favorite children’s book character, Paddinton Bear in a text message sent from her dorm room

on contemplating my son, John, I’m grateful for:

hearing him say, “I have been craving doing math lately” as he responded to a middle school kid’s need to go to him as a tutor for school

paying consistently for the vegetables on our grocery list since he’s procured a job

wanting to catch up with me over a cup of coffee on a fairly regular basis

Simple things . . . but I feel better already recounting them. It’s sort of like a piece of chocolate on my pillow to welcome me back to someplace special . . . .

After the gathering: “The Archaeology of Hospitality”

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I included this poem in a scrapbook created after my daughter’s rite of passage. It is by my friend, Drew Ward, and it captures so eloquently the magical richness of ruminating over gatherings and events evidenced by the artifacts of smudged glasses and dirty dishes.

As we fill up our minds and souls this National Poetry Month with good, nourishing thought-food, may we enjoy this tasty poetic appetizer on the benefits of gathering together:

The Archeology of Hospitality

They participated in a rich exchange of ideas and raised eyebrows,

Trading on a wealth of possibilities,

Freely spending the currency of their lives and voices,

Investing in each other,

Creating a common market of generosity

Generated from renewable resources of broken hearts,

Passing touches

And homegrown vegetables—

They were a community.

In the early morning light

They stand on the counter like monuments to another time—

Dirty bowls,

Lip-smudged silverware,

Finger-smudged glasses.

Emptying the sink will be an excavation,

A dig through strata of tableware and cooking utensils,

Uncovering relics

Of last night’s brief backyard civilization,

Where a moonlit people

Ate and talked and worshipped,

Laughed and sang and made a world together.

They made alliances of an hour

Or of a glance

Or spanning the precarious epoch of a joke.

They participated in a rich exchange of ideas and raised eyebrows,

Trading on a wealth of possibilities,

Freely spending the currency of their lives and voices,

Investing in each other,

Creating a common market of generosity

Generated from renewable resources of broken hearts,

Passing touches

And homegrown vegetables—

They were a community.

And though I’m up to my elbows this morning in soapsuds

And the artifacts of a bygone culture,

I smile,

Knowing they are not lost—

They have merely passed out of the door,

But not out of the world.

And Tuesday another great people will arrive

To leave their own indelible mark

Scattering remnants of their habitation

On countertops and coffee tables—

Leaving us forever changed.     —Drew Ward (7/11/06)

 

Beautiful, isn’t it? . . . .

First rite of passage: reflecting your own journey – “Turn Around”

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Me, age 6.

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.

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Me, reflecting, age 47.

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!