The Flights of Motherhood

Today is Mother’s Day. A wonderfully garlanded, beautifully decorated day. Filled with big fat bouquets of bright spring flowers, dewy with sweet sentiment, and big fat boxes of chocolates and deep-dipped love, reminding ourselves and the matrons we honor what a daring and delightful thing motherhood is . . . and was.

Like many robins this time in spring, I am a new empty nester. The waxy crayon-scrawled “Hapy Muthers Day” cards created at school and posted on the refrigerator are long gone. The special brunches and outings of this day are left to glances back and forth between my husband and I ocularly asking, “wanna go out today?”

And though my dear son and daughter and law sent me a wonderful thoughtful beribboned gift, and I know I will receive a sweet sweet loving message from my lovely daughter as well, there is something about waving to the sky and the flight patterns of long-flown children that is so different than huddling and cuddling then waiting for drippy undercooked love-laced pancakes in the nest.

So to all those mama birds who have waved their twittering, free-flying offspring off into the world, I salute you! The bridges cross back and forth in and out of our feathered lands, so in the meantime, blow kisses from afar and listen joyfully to the sounds of familiar migrant birds . . . .

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My own rite of passage: cloud mysteries

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I find myself under a July grey flannel sky pondering the threshold I’m straddling this emerging summer morning. I somehow know the sun will come out, but until then, I’m trying to enjoy the complexities of cloud-mystery: the wonder of what you can’t see behind the curtain.

“Cloud-mysteries” can describe motherhood, too. There’s something potentially exciting around the corner, or something scary, or something unknown, but the present hangs in shadowy, subtle draperies. A current weather change in my own reality is that my two young adult children (20 and 19) are both involved in romantic relationships this summer. One has had her beau for awhile, the other, my son, is engaging in something entirely new for him.

As a parent, I know there’s no way out. Children get experiences by experiencing. And, in so many ways, it’s all good. Risk. Caring. Even love. But also, often unknowingly, pain, mistakes, and heart break could be the dark gift behind door number 3. My threshold now is about trying to accept this new role of “mysterious curtain gazing”. What is my role now? Who am I if not protector, keeper, and guardian of my children?

As I think about this, I can’t help thinking that perhaps the best way to stare into a cloud of mysteries is to take a moment and stand back with awe and respect. Observe with care. And be diligent and present so that when the curtain does open, I can experience for myself the rays of light that come through- those delicious moments of enlightenment that young people (and the rest of us) every now and then get to envelope themselves in. But for now . . .

a holder of the moment. A hoper in the moment. That pair of hands that knows how to receive the gift and draw the drapes.

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

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: place, space, and grace

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The variety of abilities in a group of women can be astonishing. Gather up a group yourself and ask the question, what ten things can you teach me, from juggling to car repair and everything in between? Trust me, astonished, you will be.

Speaking of which . . . our next offering was from the teacher in our little group. We gathered once again around the fireplace. She offered up a quick writing exercise to warm us all up and then we began.

“I like to do this with my high school students. It gives us a way to understand where we come from. If everyone can do a first draft and then rewrite it to keep or to give it to Ginny  . . .”

A pause. We think. We write. We tell our stories. We are given a prompt that includes asking for a detail about where we come from, something that matters to us, and who we are. This is what we came up with:

“I am from every country in Europe through scratch farms in Oklahoma, one women general stores in Montana to California for the promised dream.”

“I am from pepper trees, flaming bouganvilla, and eucalyptus that peels off in three different colors.”

“I am from wallpapered halls, big wheels, basements with pipes you can swing from, and long days at the Little League field.”

“From a carousel of seasons, absorbed one minute in hot, sticky thunderstorms and the next in the frigid arms of sleet- the cruel child of a marriage between  snow and ice.” . . .

“I know that crystal clear nights matter as do the warm summer evenings . . . “

“I know that I am under the trees, performing rituals for the birds and playing a flute in a long white swing, hearing a voice in the wind.”

I think we done good. Don’t you?

What would you write?

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Second Rite of Passage: you think this is all fun and games?

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My ingenious friend, Sharon, decided to mess with some parlor and board games to create some fairly relevant gaming fare for Ginny to play with. In the spirit of community building, why not tweak Trivial Pursuit with categories such as “Famous Women” or “Oscar Wilde”? Why not make musical chairs more magical by saying to the chosen player, “you are the president of a college, and you got to tell us what your requirement is for us to get in whether it’s white socks or bacon snarfing. Everyone else, if you fit the requirement, get up and move to a chair that’s empty. If you’re chairless, you’re out of college!”

We also tried our hand at a game called, “Preferences,” where we get to know each other a little bit better by trying to guess which order one another’s “preferences” might be in categories such as “Famous Quotes”, “Food”, and “Potpourri”. I don’t know, if it were a bout between “applesauce vs. barbecued ribs”, “Rachel Carson and Jane Austen”, who would come out on top? I just hoped the ugliness wouldn’t leave a mess on aisle 5!

The best part was, we got each other wrong. We get each other right. We laughed. We guessed. And the guest of honor got to know us all a little bit better. The point of community building, right?

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Second Rite of Passage: sizzles and twists

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That Saturday, so much juiciness was packed into that luscious recipe of a day, that we could barely hold more, but we did!

Behind the kitchen counter.  Maril held brown gift bags adorned with flames of purple and pink tissue paper flaring out. “Your mom asked me to give you the gifts of the stomach,” she said. Then out came a set of measuring cups and spoons. A cookbook with pockets.

“I’m going to teach you to make a meal that you can serve to all your friends!” And there it was: community in six courses. Rosemary lemon roasted chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, mushroom gravy, sautéed yellow squash, and apple pie.

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For an hour or so in the kitchen. Ginny was trailing her at every turn for worthwhile instruction in the arts of steam and butter. “Squeeze two lemons over the chickens, then stuff one of them inside, and leave one in the pan. Sprinkle rosemary, salt and pepper over them. Put them in the oven.”

Time ticks on quickly, then resounds a ring. “Ginny, present the meal!” The feast is laid. One more beginning cook starting out on her culinary journey.

The table is set around a collection of beautiful hand-collaged plaques. Wine, anyone? Not for you, Ginny . . . yet!

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