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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First rite of passage: creating spaces

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paper and lace doily luminarias in “the room of celebration”

We were living in a beige neighborhood with stucco walls and neutral carpet (the accepted uniform for houses in the area). We weren’t raking in the bucks at our current jobs, so reserving an ultra rarified space with wooden floors and haloed light was not an option for this rite of passage. In fact, renting a space didn’t even rent any space in my mind at the time. As the granddaughter of Angelina Castellino Mammano, Sicilian immigrant and crafter of household wall art from broken bottles and dress-making scraps, I knew that making do was the right thing to do.

I had already formed a plan for theming each room for the event. I wanted a room of stories for sharing adolescent gems from the diaries of memory, a room of wisdom to gift Ginny with symbols of growth into womanhood, a room of blessing to pour words of hope and affirmation over my daughter’s body and soul, and a “room” of celebration to party till the twinkly lights shined no more!

Combining “making do” with these themed elements was my challenge. How could I make a room of stories a warm and safe place to mine the treasures of the historied heart? How would I make a room of wisdom that honors my daughter’s own sensibilities of beauty and taste? Could a room of blessing become a holy space without wooden floors, sacred echoes, and sanctified ceilings? What space could best hold a feast and a riotously celebratory dance party all at the same time?

Well, with a call out to a couple of women included in the special day for suggestions and ideas, as well as a gathering, yes, an actual gathering of materials in my living room of things I had on hand (quilts, fancy fabrics, folk art carvings, photographs, mis-matched tea cups!), I created simple, but beautiful spaces that held what I had hoped my home would house most on that important day: a homespun montage of warmth and meaning.

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My daughter relishes the “room of wisdom”

A first rite of passage: gathering the women

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three generations of “us”- Ginny, mom, and me

I want to lay down some history here. The story of creating a first rite of passage for my 14 year old daughter has a long and rich beginning, so I’ve decided to spend the first 8 or so posts breaking it into bite sized pieces. Taste and enjoy!

Who to pick? Who to pick? So many lovely, intelligent, wise women. Who to pick? Who to pick? So many interesting, fun-loving, enlivening, historied women. Who to pick? It was Ginny’s first rite of passage (and mine as well), and the criteria was slowly starting to form in my mind.

  • She has to be somebody Ginny enjoys as a person.
  • She has to be somebody Ginny looks up to in some way, conventionally, or unconventionally.
  • She has to be someone that Ginny could learn something from.
  • She has to be someone who loves Ginny- who really loves Ginny.

There were women who could fill out that list from so many places: close family, long time friends, spiritual mentors, women from our arts group, etc., but I wanted to limit myself to 9, including me. Not all the juicy, wonderful women I knew could participate in this round, but I knew that these amazing women in Ginny’s life could be included in another way that she would also deeply cherish (coming up in an upcoming blog entry!)

So I began with choosing my mother. Having the three generations of Cornett/Mammano/Schneider girls, growing together from the same family tree, all together at this event would be very special. And feeling held by her closest predecessors, would be a kind and loving act. I next thought of Ginny’s godmother, Tricia. She knew Ginny while I was housing her in my maternity clothes, she carted her in a backpack around Victoria, BC at 8 months, and she had been rooting for her with so much vigor and intention throughout her growing years. My thoughts then went to Sharon. Dear, dear friend who knew how to live out intellect, playfulness, and soulfulness, and had done just that in Ginny’s presence. Karmyn was always a favorite with both of my children. She knew how to embrace life with all of the joy, energy, and enthusiasm a human being could muster. She would definitely teach Ginny something valuable.

Her “Auntie Maril,” an honorary aunt in our little world embodied place, grace, and a combination of refinement and homespun beauty. She was a woman who was often an encouragement and a comfort in our lives. Next was Nancy. Through Montage, an artist’s group I have been a part of for nearly two decades, Ginny had been exposed to the incredible beauty, love, and wisdom of Nancy and her husband, Drew. She admired Nancy’s skill and creativity and would enjoy having her as part of this gathering. And last, but definitely not least, our friend and a-couple-of-neighborhoods away neighbor, Valerie. At the time, Valerie was somewhat of a newcomer in our lives, but I had known since the moment I met her that she was quality. She was a bright, funny, strong woman- an inspiration and a voracious reader! I now had my nine . . . I just had to ask them . . .

A welcome and a warm hello

a cup of tea in the room of stories

a cup of tea in the room of stories

My girl was turning 14. I looked up “rite of passage for women” online and got various stories of female circumcision and menstruation rites. With my nose crinkled, and the bottom falling out of my parental heart cavity, I knew I wanted something different than these options- something beautiful, something meaningful, something indelible. Shouldn’t every child have the chance to go through puberty with a bridge intact and shining adults holding hands on either side of it singing them into adulthood? Yes, my heart pumped, every child should.

Shining adults. I knew so many. My mom was one, kneeling at the side of my bed since childhood, ushering me into the world of spirit, praying in the darkness, while my eyes swirled in my head searching for connection to the otherworld. My good friend, Tricia was another. A pillar in my daughter’s life since birth. The one woman who took a stand to fight for dignity and freedom in my life when dignity and freedom were not a part of our family structure. My friend, Sharon would be another. Solid soul of commitment and questions. A beauty forging through the dusty paths of difficulty with at times, murky direction.  Nancy could be a third. Artist extraordinaire.  A sculptor from scraps. Her craft boasting both a method and a life lesson.

The list was filling out. But so many could have fit the bill: Karmyn, Maril, Valerie . . . . Each possible person could have filled it with a contribution, a purpose, a message, a gift they bring to this life. If it weren’t sculpting or praying or rescuing, it would be letter-writing or storytelling, or quilt-making. Each person has a part to play on the shining bridge . . .

which is why I’m choosing to write this blog.

I hope to::

  • explore the rich possibilities of rites of passage for girls
  • share life affirming examples from close at home and far way
  • provide a meeting place for ideas and encouragement in creating your own original celebrations

Thanks for joining me on this journey. I’m glad you’re here! I treasure every comment and look forward to responding to each one. See you on the shining bridge!