Today I said goodbye to my friend Tina, who after several years of living in Columbus is moving back to her homeland of Sweden and taking with her her husband and their two sons – all three American-born. Tina has become a sort of matriarch of motherhood in Columbus. She is eternally hosting backyard playdates and is one of those women who feels so deeply the importance of motherhood that she wants to celebrate pregnancies in ways that go beyond the customary buy-a-bunch-of-stuff-on-a-registry-list sort of baby shower. So borrowing from the Blessing Way tradition, she has hosted several blessingways for her very pregnant friends and even for others of us who are undergoing other rites of passage – moving away, for example. (The concept of a Blessing Way as a ceremony centered on healing, peace and harmony has Navajo origins. You can read more about blessingways for mothers-to-be here and here.)
Occasionally one of our blessingways is an event in and of itself, with just the women there to share birth stories, life stories and other heartfelt sentiments together (this is the kind of coming together where you cut through the small talk and get emotional and teary-eyed). At my blessingway for Owen I wore a Tina-constructed crown of flowers from her garden, enjoyed a foot bath and a wonderful potluck dinner, and listened with great interest to the birth stories of some of my closest friends as they threaded beads on a necklace for me – one bead for each of their own children. (That necklace came with me to my remaining doctor’s appointments and to my labor and delivery room at the hospital.) It was a very scaled-down version of a blessingway – (go here for some samples of what a prolonged blessingway might look like – we never did any belly paintings or chants or invocations or evocations, but we called our simple gatherings with food and necklaces blessingways nonetheless). And since we all lead harried, hurried lives sometimes the blessingway became a side event – we’d pull aside a mother-to-be for our moment to string beads on a necklace and talk with her quietly one-on-one in the midst of a playdate full of running kids.
So today we had our farewell blessingway for Tina, left the kids with babysitters, took her to lunch and realized we’d all brought our beads but had no string for her necklace. Without Tina we are fumblers of the blessingway, but at least we got to say our goodbyes, share our thanks for her and hand her a gradually building collection of beads for her to string later as she flies off to her new life in Sweden. Obviously without Tina, we are already feeling a bit lost.
Any of you attended a more bona fide blessingway -- maybe a bit more replete with ritual than we manage? I'd be interested to here about it.