I run groups for mothers and daughters, girls from 10-15. We talk about the possibility of seeing life as a journey, an adventure in a series of phases, cycles, each with it’s own distinct attributes. It’s a way to lead girls to self reflection, a means of instilling a holisitic view of themselves, of all women, and to recognise their mothers as women on the journey of life, too. That’s a big concept for a pre-pubescent girl, but also a universal story theme of life’s changes.
I encourage the girls to find what is positive about the phase of life they are currently in, and to use their imagination to explore what might be good about the future they can foresee. This supports girls to see their possible trepidation about growing up, or their over-enthusiasm to be grown up! Usually the girls’ responses relate to decision making, being able to choose their own clothes, their own home, being able to drive a car, enjoy the benefits of more independence. Occasionally girls are teary while contemplating exchanging childhood privileges for adult freedoms.
I present these questions to the group of girls age 10-12; ‘What do you look forward to in the future? If you could see yourself as a young woman being able to make choices for yourself, what do you look forward to?’
The ‘talking stick’ is passed around, only this time it’s a rock, shaped like a heart. One often timid girl is unusually eager for the stone. She is certain about what excites her in the future. “I look forward to being a grandma.” Quite an unusual statement for an 11 year old girl, I think to myself. “I love playing with the skin on the inside of my grandma’s arms,” she says nearly purring as her doe-like eyes drift into a faraway memory. The next moment her bubbly excitement returns, “And I look forward to being a grandma cause I think I will really like it when my grandchildren play with that soft skin on my arms.”
Everyone’s grandma has that kind of arm skin, if she lived long enough. The girl is infatuated with the life experience that softened that woman, although she doesn’t know that. She longs for the fluid and natural intimacy afforded between grandchildren and grandmothers. She relishes the momentary aspect of that fleeting relationship, somehow sensing the terminal reality of how grandma will eventually leave and granddaughter will become absorbed in a life of her own. Both the dreamy and tactile life stages of grandma and maiden blend into a meeting place of mutual warmth, wisdom and comfort. The girl has been touched by the maternal continuum and it’s insistent presence that will be her lifelong companion: a backbone of confidence, self respect and stability, a leaping off place she can always return to, her legacy, her heritage, the wellspring of her ancestry, the unbroken red thread that connects all women of all time.
A grandmotherly silence fills the space, a hopeful quiet, a promise of tomorrows on the heels of death. Circular spirals of unbroken mitochondrial DNA flow ceaselessly like the river to the sea, returning again and again. She has named what we all long for, an inner quietude that belonging brings.
I’m no longer afraid of growing ‘chicken wings’ on my aging arms. They are the love handles for my future grandchildren.