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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Second rite of passage: considering the theme

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Ginny in her quilted “nest”.

Ginny’s first rite of passage was such a big hit on everyone’s radar (for the adults as well as the fledgling teen), that she and I were ready for round 2. Because the palette of colors was so rich in our first attempt (great food, great wisdom, great music), we thought, “why not broaden the spectrum”? Instead of a day retreat, we opted for a full weekend. More time for mentoring, more time for questions, more time for frolicking with the old fogies (I jest).

It was important when considering the thematic idea for this second rite of passage at age 18, that I look at current life circumstances and areas of “itching” importance for Ginny. Living in community was a biggie. She was considering moving in with a team of 5 other twenty-somethings (she being the only teenager) to volunteer on the south side of Chicago. So “community” was a consideration, but so could have been “living artfully” or “being the gift others open up”.

As I alluded to in an earlier post, in the end, we opted for “The Community Nest”. This one could bring out great lessons in “playing well with others” as well as incorporating fun aviary images such as “nesting”, “flying”, and “coming home”. . . . More twigs and feathers upcoming in the next post!

Second rite of passage: a new leader emerges

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At age 18, I wanted to give my daughter a further, deeper, broader experience in entering the wide wide world of womanhood. It is a beautiful world indeed, and she was just brushing the shiny surface of it, so in her burgeoning blush into adulthood, I figured it was about time to let her “woman” with us.

Gentle though. Slow down. I did not want to overwhelm her. No major planning or making phone calls for this round. I still wanted this to be a gift. To ease into being an offerer in our little community was the goal, decked out in encouragement, feathered frills, and heart-warming extras. I wanted my daughter to see that being a contributor, really, was itself a gift- to the self as well as to others.

So my assignment was simply this: “Ginny, if I were to give you an hour or two to teach your loving little group of mentors something meaningful to you, and potentially, to them, what would you teach them? It doesn’t have to be a lecture (though it could be); you can make it a hands on experience, a listening experience, an experiment, the sky’s pretty much the limit!”

Well, what Ginny came up with was achingly beautiful. This I will share in a future post. It’s a fun thing to think about, isn’t it? If your child had a chance to teach you something, to teach her mentors something, what would she come up with? The answer might surprise you (and even make you tear up a bit . . . or if it’s hysterically wonderful, laugh out loud. . . .)

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Second Rite of Passage: here it is!

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Whimsical sculpture at Kit Carson Park near San Diego.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing with you some hints, tips, and practicalities about creating a rite of passage for a girl of about 18 years of age. You know, the age that says, “I’m an adult!” but, as a former18-year-old yourself, you know better. But, really, what I’ll be sharing is more than just ideas. I’m going to give you lots of juicy details, because I believe when it comes to sharing, “storytelling the process” is much more interesting. And the truth is, the devil is not in the details, but oftentimes, the delight is in the details (think: the darker, the richer, the sweeter, as in devil’s food cake, or the creamier, the tangier, the more tantalizing, as in deviled eggs)!

O.K., I diverge . . . the bridge into early adulthood is an exciting one. There are vistas in front of you, as well as a little bit of life experience hefted under your belt. And, as a parent or mentor of someone that age, it can be terribly amazing, or amazingly difficult to guide someone through all the changes that often include graduation, college searches, job searches, new relationships, break-ups of old ones. So I hope these next several posts provide a breath of fresh air and a little encouragement for what the possibilites of creative mentorship can look like.

I invite you to come along! Paste a few feathers onto your wings, and enjoy the flight!

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Held: a quiet presence

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When we want to support our teen or adolescent, the three-foot wide air of independence they prefer to create as pillow around themselves doesn’t always invite the gifts of assistance and conversation we want to offer them. Rather, it creates more of a bounce house effect where we find ourselves propelled in the other direction, the closer we try to get to them. Transition is hard, and we want to honor our children’s desires for “self-actualization” as well as assist in those areas that feel far far away from any breath of that lofty idea.

The world “held” has come into my sphere over the past couple of years, and what that has come to mean to me is merely, “holding with loving intention.” I know that could sound a bit “woo-woo”, but really, when you focus on a person, child or otherwise, with confidence and love, you give off a certain quality and thickness of air as well. I interpret this space as “welcome”, “trust”, “availability”, “acceptance”. And in my experience (and believe me, there are exceptions), those moments of “holding” tend to draw in, rather than push away. They create a resting pillow rather than a bounce house.

Being “held” can be in itself the loving gift placed on their pillows or tucked into their bedsheets. It doesn’t take the place of meaningful and essential conversation, but it does blanket the spaces in-between with a warmth that oftentimes they can feel during these thresholds of their lives. . . .

Boys to men: “enough is as good as a feast”

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Sometimes a child is more ready for a small, satisfying meal than a banquet. This was true of my son at 18. A meaningful afternoon seemed a more fitting tribute to his growth and the contributions of his mentors, than a weekend away. By creating an event within the parameters of a limited time frame, it was important to think of how to pack those few hours with meaning and affirmation.

First came the guest list. By this time in his life, my son had connected with important people that were from both genders. I thought out of the box (of my usual gender specific rites of passage) and decided to choose men and women. Because he knew about the event, I checked in with him on this one, and he approved.

“What would make a rich impact at this time in his life?” I thought. What came to mind was for these loving and accomplished people to give him two things: an object that symbolizes transition, and a thought or two about who John is now and who they see him becoming. The wonderful and the wildly adventurous showed up: a carabiner that hooked meaning and connection on the side of a cliff for his step-dad and mentor, a bark covered journal brought lovingly from a friend’s native New Zealand to record John’s thoughts, an empty notebook to write down any question at this time in his life to share with a ready and willing mentor/friend, a savored movie that opened up the worlds of meaningful conversation and art and the hope it could do this for my son, too.

And that’s really all it takes. Time. Memory. Meaning. And an extension of ourselves. These are all it takes to set the table for another person’s soul.

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: love poem to a 14 year old boy

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Sometimes you open your eyes to the glinting squinting morning world knowing something has changed. Your child has grown a bit taller, an adolescent voice resonates in deeper or brighter tones, an awakening happens that allows a son or daughter to see the world in a different way- somehow the shades have been pulled up and the windows have been pushed open. Recording the tiny thresholds of a life by playing a song, or creating a piece of writing, such as  a poem, can be a valuable threshold marker, for the maker and the recipient. Here is one I wrote to my boy at age 14, and later gifted to him as a token of his mother’s love at any and every age, tough or tender, smooth-cheeked or speckled with the raw red signs of growing up:

To My John

You came to me wooly and white,

big and soft and brand new,

dragged around by your sister in

the arms of awkward love;

strawberries, red and ripe

marked your birth.

I’d dip my face into your curly hair,

soft peaks of meringue near

sweet pink cheeks and let your little

body curl up inside the cave of my

ribs all tucked up in love.

Now you’re 14, voice falling into

deep rich places, body growing taller

than mine, hair tufts of spun gold.

I still love you more than all of the

strawberries in the world- I love you

redder, I love you sweeter; I still tuck

the curl of your soul into my heart,

the curl of your body in mine as I

sneak a cuddle at bedtime.

I still look at you and see all the boy

you once were and all the boy you’re

becoming, and feel proud, moved,

and deeply in love.

– Gina Marie Mammano

Where are the small markings of your love today?

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.