Yarn and Grape Hyacinths
As a busy professional, I often struggle feeling connected to people in my private life. I admit that a lack of connection is one of the hardest parts about being a liberal Mormon in my family and ward. But after an amazing 18-hour car-ride and conversation with Amelia, Stella, and a few others, I have been thinking more about the holiness and godliness of human connection, and so I’ve decided to magnify the connections I have in my life, to see how I can improve them.
Around my wrist is a bracelet of simple white yarn wrapped three times: Once for my mother, once for my grandmother, and once for me. I wrapped this bracelet a couple of weeks ago at a Blessingway for two Exponent friends and their babies. While I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder by talking too much about this particular blessingway, I will say that at the beginning of a blessingway, we pass around this yarn, wrapping it around our wrists while saying our mothers’ names, simultaneously connecting each woman in the room to each other. When all the women are connected, we cut the yarn and tie them into individual bracelets with an admonishment to wear them until they fray or fall off, an umbilical cord connecting us to our communities of women.
Through this ritual, we honor the women who gave us life. But not everyone has a wonderful relationship with our mothers. At that point, we’re invited to think about our divine mothers, such as Mother Earth or our Heavenly Mother.
For me, these connections are intertwined. The other night I came home from work to my mother who was babysitting my baby while my husband was away on a backpacking retreat. She was reading the most recent issue of the Exponent II publication I had left on the piano, and it was the one piece I was the most anxious about her finding. It was a beautiful but hard essay about the author’s difficult relationship with an all-consuming and often abusive mother. As my mom read this essay, she kept saying “The author’s mother sounds just like my mother. I really hope you don’t think this sounds like me.” And you know, parts of it did remind me of past moments between my mother and me. But I realized then that my mother did not act in isolation when she did things that hurt me, particularly the things she said to me as a teenager when I was left to feel like a horrible wayward child because of my stubborness and refusal to conform. She was responding both to me and to her painful memories of her mother. There’s a lot more connectedness there than meets the eye.
When I speak my mother’s or grandmother’s name at the beginning of a blessingway, I remember that I want to do my best to honor them, even though they weren’t perfect. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, and give a dose of forgiveness as I hope others will give me for my imperfections. Or if forgiveness is not something I’m ready for, at least I try to offer acceptance that it is what it is, they are who they are, and I am their daughter and granddaughter.
When my mom finished reading the Exponent II article, I walked her outside to her car. I showed her the beautiful pink blossoms on the crab apple tree. She then looked down at the grape hyacinths covering a large flower garden. She said, “My mother LOVED grape hyacinths.” I can’t say I have felt the same way. I have been on a four-year war against these little purple flowers that keep popping up everywhere in my yard, even at times in the lawn, no matter how many times I uproot each one and throw the bulbs away. But if there is one thing my grandmother knew, it was her flowers, and she delighted in keeping them coming back every year.
After my mom said this about my grandmother and the flowers, I felt differently about these flowers I had been treating as weeds. Maybe it was the yarn reminder I’ve kept on my wrist these last weeks, tugging at me to think of my mother and grandmother, so that I would be more receptive to the message I saw coming from my garden. In that moment, I felt acceptance toward the grape hyacinths, that they were there in my yard because they were supposed to be there—that maybe my departed grandmother had a hand in putting them back in my garden year after year despite my best efforts to eliminate them. Maybe it was up to me to figure out how to deal with their existence: to see them for their beauty and heartiness, or to whirl to exhaustion in a futile effort to rid my soil of hundreds of bulbs each year. Those flowers were growing for decades before I arrived on the scene, perhaps it was time for me to learn that I play a part in their story, and not necessarily the other way around.
What objects or rituals keep you connected to loved ones, past and present?
Have you recently been able to change your mind about an important relationship that has brought you more peace?