It’s a golden fall day here–the leaves have started to turn and the sun is shining brightly so it seems as if Midas has kissed the world. I’m still inside, looking out–but with windows open to coax in the breeze. I’ve taken the day off to clean house and prepare for a small gathering of family and church folks to help us celebrate the coming of age of our eldest daughter.
A question I hear in the circles I travel is: “who loved you into being” and I’m reflecting on that today. I’m wondering who loved my daughter into being the person she is today and will become. It is a long line. It is a long line of people who not only loved her, but those who invested in her father and in her mother over the years. The people in our bloodline, as well as those in our circle of care and community. And I don’t always think how deeply that line extends–until golden days like today when given a stretch of time to do so.
I have invited only a small number to our house tonight–mostly because these are the people I am comfortable inviting to a last-minute, thrown-together gathering, but also because they stand in for a lot of other people both here and gone.
One of my daughter’s favorite movies is the Disney cartoon, Mulan, and part of the movie came back to me as I wrote those last few words–the bit about the ancestors. Just an image floated to mind as the ghosts of the ancestors are consulted. It reminded me of something that my own mother wrote recently, when I realized–quite viscerally–that she is the last living grandparent, greatgrandparent, etc., that my children have. It also reminded me of Temple of my Familiar, by Alice Walker–a book I haven’t read in forever, but which haunts my faith formation almost as much as The Color Purple sparked it.
I realize that I am too temporally situated. I forget to look back at the long line and I forget, a lot of times, to simply look up and around me and see that there is so much more going on in my world and in the worlds my children inhabit that forms all of who I am in this moment, all of who they will be in the coming years. And so I steal moments on golden days like today to think about the circles that surround us–those seen and unseen. And when I say unseen, I don’t only mean the ancestors, but those who influenced the lives of those who shaped us and who we will never meet. I think of the people I have met and known in these last several years that my children will never meet or know deeply who have absolutely changed my understanding of myself, of my role in the world, and my ability to be loving and present with my children and with others. These unseen hands are as much a part of their lives as those of the hands that cradled them when they were babies.
My parting thought as I catapult into the day with lists and loaves: I’ve been listening to a lot of Sweet Honey in the Rock and am captivated by the simplest of ideas–that as elders, it is our responsibilty to have faith in our children–and to tell them so. So I leave you with Indaba (I prefer the version just by Sweet Honey, but I could only find video with other choirs):