All kids needs rite of passage ceremonies when they come of age. We planned an elaborate one for my nephew Alex, a small intimate one for my niece Rose (both of whom lived with us during their teenage yearsâ€”long story), another complicated one for Bowen and a big community celebration for Lyra. The most important lesson I learned from crafting these rituals is that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to rites of passage.
The boys both needed rites that included a long preparation period, tasks to accomplish, and a solo venture in the wilderness. Each one took an entire summer, start to finish. Rose and Alex were not Pagan at all, but they were part of our family and it didn’t take much effort to design a ceremony that celebrated their passage without “getting too Pagan” on them.
This year it was Jojo’s turn, the youngest, who is now 14. As a toddler Jojo was the most vehement, demonstrably Pagan child you could imagine. In her loud voice she would demand that we “give an offering to the God” at all sorts of inopportune moments (her sister’s piano lesson, the library) and during a Winter Solstice ritual when she was five, she marched into the center of the circle during the storytelling and pantomimed the whole story as it was being told, much to the delight of everyone there (she has always had a dramatic flair).
But that is ancient history as far as Jojo is concerned now, and the less said about her youthful follies the better. We talked about her coming of age a few months ago and she was adamant: “I DON’T want a ritual!” Okay, I said, but I do want to do something special with you, and I have to take you on a Mystery Ride.
We used to take our kids on Mystery Rides when they were young: we’d pile them into the car with little advance warning and go to some place like the Petrified Forest, or the beach, or for a hike in the big redwoods. Ice cream was usually involved, and the kids loved both the surprise element and the actual trip. So Jojo didn’t complain at all when I told her we were going to take a mystery ride for an entire weekend earlier this month in celebration of her coming of age. In fact, she was pretty excited about it.
What Jojo didn’t know is that we would be flying to Chicago to see Lyra for the weekend, staying at a fancy hotel, and that Rose would be joining us as well as my sister. It was a girls’ weekend out, and we had a blast. Every day there was a new surprise for Jojo: a friend of my sister gave us a private tour of the NBC studios, we went out for high tea, and saw the great Broadway show Wicked. She also got to spend a night with Lyra and her friends, going to a college party and a horror movie. Such a life!
I am very happy about how it all turned out. It doesn’t worry me in the least that Jojo is anti-ritual at this point in her life. I think with her siblings gone, her parents split up, and just about to enter high school the girl has got plenty to deal with at present. There will be time enough in her long life for us to do ritual together of whatever sort seems appropriate. Meanwhile, here are a couple pictures taken from my sister’s cell phone camera when we were in the Art Institute Museum. The first one is of Lyra and Jojo, the second is Rose and me parodying ourselves being awestruck by a painting. (Which we were. That museum is incredible.)
Lyra has also posted pictures on her blog from our tour of the television studio. It turns out that the Chicago studio is where Jerry Springer and the Judge Mathis show are taped so the girls got to horse around on the sets, which was a lot of fun to watch. Tip for visitors: nobody who works at the studio uses the bathrooms closest to the Jerry Springer set. Just FYI.