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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Considering the future . . . and planting a big one on its lips!

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Now that I’m standing at the bottom edge of the shining bridge called “middle-age” (a little bit tarnished, I must admit), I realize that before me are beautiful opportunities for more rites of passage, including my own. I look to the upcoming 21-year-old threshold for my daughter with excitement, smiling eyes, and hands rubbing together in creative scheming, but I also look ahead to my own fiftieth (only 2 years away) with rich anticipation.

When we honor ourselves, we pave the way for our children to learn to honor themselves as well. And I’m not talking about ego. I’m talking about honest to goodness self-realization- bursting onto the stage of the next milestone of our lives with bravery, not fear. Taking it by the horns, and then planting a big one on its lips and saying, “welcome!” Honoring is giving dignity and respect to something. And the turns in our lives deserve a little encouragement.

I hope you’re thinking about the upcoming milestones in your life with hope and anticipation. There’s someone standing behind you on the bridge watching, and he or she, daughter or son, is not only observing, but quietly urging you on.

A personal threshold-crossing poem

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This time of year, we tend to cross thresholds. Children leave through our front doors for kindergarten or college, and anything in between. Summer melts away into preparations for fall. And the adjustments in our own interiors can feel like both loss and release. Here is a poem I wrote that reminds me to cross the most intimate threshold with courage- the one inside ourselves.

Bless the Threshold

Before you cross it today,

pause.

You are leaving the inside

for the outside-

the safety of interiors

for the adventure

of exteriors,

the known, for the

unknown,

or perhaps not.

For the interiors are a

a world unto themselves-

a slow-brewing moment,

a slow-stirring movement,

a dark brooding over the waters,

a bowl of mystery,

a temple of stars,

a sacred altar where

sacrifices are made

with slow, wandering hands,

and flickering hearts

near small, relentless

candles,

under the soft chant of

audible breaths.

Before you cross it today,

pause.

You are leaving the outside

for the inside.

The safety of the exteriors

for the adventure of the

interiors, the known,

for the unknown.

– Gina Marie Mammano

My own rite of passage: cloud break

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Of course, the other side of the cloud mystery, is the cloud break, beautiful, light-filled, but also in its own way, a time of passing. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” (from the band, Supersonic).Those lovely, white or grey sky-bodies that created those patches of the unknown, also float away into their own directions, and with that we get to experience both “newness” and “change”.

One of my own children today, sends off his girlfriend on an airplane back to northern California; we watch her cloud float away, his remains here. My daughter will leave the state in a couple of weeks to start her sophomore year of college- her cloud will also float.

I can only watch the sky with wonder. So beautiful those particular clouds. So wide the sky. All we can really do is send them on their way with light and blessing and wait for the next northern wind to bring them back, holding new crystals and colors in their formations to share with the rest of us.

My son will eventually float on as well. Our job, as parents, is simply to be a part of their adoring sky.

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: 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: 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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