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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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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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 . . . .

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: the “Dear Diary” confessions

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Tricia’s got the “dear diary” giggles!

If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably picked up that Ginny was already a very thoughtful, mature young woman when we held this rite of passage.

That’s why I dug deep into my archives to find my diary with the cartoon of a puppy on the front and a flimsy lock, covered in I like Tim, I like Scott, I like Todd

Then I turned to what I confessed to my diary the exact week that I was the age of Ginny the week of her celebration.  I photocopied these entries, and that’s what I enclosed in her box.

At the event, I decided to do a dramatic reading for Ginny and assembled friends, directly from Dear Diary.  It turned out to be one of the times in my life when I laughed so uncontrollably that I could barely speak.  I got all red-faced and squeaky and laughed and snorted as I read aloud (for the first time ever, and with a 25 year lapse!) my own words—hilariously immature, heartbreakingly sweet, unbelievably superficial.

This was my gift to Ginny—a glimpse into a young me.  I wanted to give her this for two reasons.  One, I know she looks up to me as a wise and deep woman, and I wanted to show her that we all grow into our adult selves over time and with intention—we weren’t always that way.  Two, I wanted her to know that in all of her maturity and thoughtfulness and gracefulness, she was way ahead of the curve.  To that I was in awe and in celebration.

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Ginny enjoying her “auntie” Tricia