Voices of Our Mothers & Grandmothers, Celebrating Women’s History 3/31/2010
Gently stroking a fragment of soft green moss with her fingertips, a woman began reciting the nursery rhyme “Hickory Dickory Dock.” A few minutes later, another woman picked up a small broken branch from a cherry tree with one blossom opening at the end, saying, “we had these all around when I was little, but I don’t remember any songs right now.” Another woman, holding a dry brown leaf offers, “my mother used to sing a song ‘autumn leaves, hmm mmm, mmm, hmm mmm mmm, when the autumn leaves fall’… that’s how it went.”
Part of a celebratory day at the end of Women’s History Month at the Camba Park Slope Women’s Center, this small gathering of women brought tears and smiles to all the participants, including a staff member or two who joined in for a few moments of remembering songs from our mothers, grandmothers, and childhoods. When the recreation director at the center asked if I would consider doing something for women’s history beyond my weekly yoga class, right away I thought, "yes, yes, let’s sing from the memories of our mothers and sisters. Let’s celebrate the history that resides in each human being, that of the passage from the mother into the self."
After a 45 minute chair yoga session, in which we celebrated our breath and our bodies, we turned to a plate of natural objects: a fragment of bright green moss, a dry leaf, a broken branch with cherry blossom, a bright red berry, a dried seed from a tree. Letting each participant contemplate the collection, I asked, “do you find anything here that reminds you of when you were very young, and are there any songs that come to mind, even fragments of songs?” The reactions were immediate for each woman. One began to sing “Amazing Grace” as her grandmother had always done, and a soft chorus began from women all over the room, even those who were not officially sitting in the circle. Another woman remembered the beginning of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and when her memory failed, the others filled in the words.
As with my yoga classes, I feel so grateful to these beautiful women when they allow me to facilitate their own blossoming. Making the space among us feel safe and real is my job, bringing effort, laughter, the softness of memory, the hardness of loss, all out in the open where we can meet each others' gaze and be happy that moment. The moist eyes and wide smiles around the circle are quite a celebration of the strength, generosity, endurance and joy in the women who pass through the shelter in any given week.