Sunday, April 30, 2006
Flying the Coop
Since we're so far away from home these days, my Mom sends me pictures of family events we can't attend. I see these kids, 2-3 generations away from me, sons and daughters, in the same images and stories I've heard before. These are pictures of cousins leaping off the top of our chicken coop to ride the bag swing. Apparently the roof of the barn was not good enough. They moved the ladder to the coop, step off onto the refrigerator and swing away. Didn't Uncle Paul once try this once with an umbrella? I've seen U. Marvin, A. Bess, and A. Carol, swinging their blackened feet out of the hay mow -- 12+ feet above the ground.
We often reject ritual out-of-hand as meaningless or insignificant. Yet like any gift of grace, it is not so much a matter of what we are able to bring to it as it is discovering what is already and always there. These stories of flying off windmills and falling off tractors should be a part of these 4th and 5th generation sons and daughters as much as they are to our ancestors. They should not experience failing memories on our account.
The accomplishments and "relative" happiness of my family is not by accident. It is reinforced through the annual rituals of pinatas, name eggs, familiar photos, John Deere tractors, juicy watermelons.
Either our family is not afraid of heights or we find ourselves doing what families do best -- reliving and renewing the rituals and traditions that have shaped our lives for years, centuries, millenia. We are grounded in these things. They are what allow us to take the leaps of faith and ambition we need to fly.