I've scribbled the alphabet for meaning since I can remember.
It went something like this, at a kitchen table, amidst a house adorned by the chaos of an almost toddling child in desperate need of a deep clean (the house, not the child):
Me: Iʻm making apple pies for Aaronʻs first birthday.
Corey: We can buy pies, itʻs okay. Itʻll save time.
A variation of the two above sentences played out repeatedly over the weeks. If you think this story doesnʻt apply to you, I encourage you to read on. Birth applies to everyone.
“Non-negotiable” was the exact word I used when both of my parents also tried to intervene and explain that it was okay to have a store bought cake – there was enough to do.
“Itʻs a hard line, non-negotiable,” Iʻd respond automatically. No room for discussion.
So 48 hours before the party, with family arriving from out of town, I packed my little man in a car and drove an hour to our favorite orchard to pick his first apple. Non-negotiable, Iʻd repeat to anyone listening.
My outing was met with traffic and delayed all my careful planning. Fast-forward to me frantic, the next morning, despite all my zen-hipster-older mom cool, I was losing it. I peeled and peeled. I melted butter, added cinnamon and listened to music from Aaronʻs fourth trimester playlist, and on came the tears.
I was not sad. Water, tears, emotions, all of it was simply leaking out of my body as I peeled and individually placed each coconut sugared slice of apple.
I often refer to Karla McLarenʻs book, and I was recently re-reading on the need to integrate our experiences in our life for us to be fully present. For our autonomic nervous system to rest in some semblance of balance, we need to return, feel un-integrated emotions, and bring that peace / piece back inside of ourselves. When BIG events happen (read: trauma) a little bit of us steps to the side to protect us, so that we can move on through our day and our life, coming back to integrate the pieces later.
In an intact culture, there are rituals and practices, a community of peers or Elders to instigate a return, a whisper of support, an acknowledgement of the new. Because when you pass through a threshold: a marriage, a divorce, a business, a failure, a death, a birth, a big moment in time – you are altered. You are new, again.
Hereʻs the hitch, in our faster, next, never stop scrolling, never do nothing culture we miss the pause for the cycle to come around and clean up, catch up – really integrate the pieces of us or an experience we couldnʻt get the first time through, leaving us disconnected, frazzled and never quite "here."
Should I have told you first that I needed convincing that we needed a big party? I kept hearing, “Itʻs a milestone.” My modern mind thought: “Pshht. We will celebrate him and move along –no biggie,”
My family and my body knew differently. There is a cycle to birth; there is a cyclical revisit; there is an integration and it is necessary. The fact that I thought the 1st birthday wasnʻt a big deal would be the first clue my practitioner self would notice in another as a key that there WAS something that needed space for integration.
It was in the apple pie peels, in the shaky assembling of the crust that so many unspoken emotions, from all over the spectrum tumbled out. It was the effort and the offering of the pies that opened up the gates of emotions.
THIS is why we need ritual. This is why we need each other, I relearned that day. We need a way to return, to integrate, to be witnessed and suss through some of lifeʻs difficulty (or magnanimous generosity) that was a bit too big to chew the first time through.
Thank goodness, I thought, for those apple pies. Women, in their wisdom, grandmomʻs in their kitchens with their alchemical recipes ---- was that why their cooking tasted so good? In the flour and the butter are the tears of pure joy and anguish for the ones we love to love.
As a beginning and a continuation of this conversation, Iʻll be making more apple pies as a return to ritual.
What about you? Where is ritual in your life?
“Ritual is able to hold the long-discarded shards of our stories and make them whole again. It has the strength and elasticity to contain what we cannot contain on our own, what we cannot face in solitude.”
― Francis Weller
I have learned – am learning – so much as a parent. At first, admittedly, I wanted to keep that sharing to a minimum: I mean my newsletter list didnʻt sign up to read about Kate the Parent.
And that is - what I am realizing - one of the foundationally flawed mindsets of our current culture. We think we can place our children on a shelf and include them only when appropriate, rather than building a culture that is appropriate for our children.
May you enjoy the slowing down of October, and the call of those that came before us; those who bore the weight to make space for our existence, good, bad or indifferent, so that we may walk our own road.
May we be kind,
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Happy Samhain! Kate
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