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Archive for the ‘The Need for Ceremony’ Category

BB - Precious Bridget and Grandpa

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!  Here is Grandpa Joe holding our 14th grandchild, Adetokunbo Bridget Josephine Adesokun.  Our wee one was 5 hours old when we first met her on 6/4, and she was sleeping off her jet lag while visitors played Pass the Baby.  But since yesterday at 24 plus hours old, Adetokunbo Bridget has been eating almost non-stop—or as her mom, our daughter Martina, says:  “using me for a pacifier”. 

What a treasure!  For Joe and me, and undoubtedly all who have met our treasure, it has been love at first sight!

Names are tremendously significant in our son-in-law Sanmi’s Ebira Tribe Nigerian culture.  The names are chosen primarily for their meaning, and every person will call a child by which ever of the names he or she prefers.  The child grows up knowing that the different names are an important part of her; they signify facets of her personhood.  Beautiful!

In a couple of weeks, we’ll share in a Naming Ceremony at our condo community clubhouse where family members and friends will gather to add to the list of our baby’s names, and pray over her.  After the ceremony, we’ll gather beside the pool at our daughter Debbie’s home.   

Sanmi’s brothers will join us in celebration, from Toronto and Cleveland.  How I wish their mom could be with us.  She is in Nigeria, and her sons hope to bring her to North America soon.  (Bridget, are you reading?  WE LOVE YOU!!!)

So now I have added words.  But the essence is in the photos:  New Life in Spring!!!  Precious new life!

BB - Bridget is 5 hours old

BB - Mother and Babe

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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At last, winter has dumped its trademark on our Northern land.  The world around our country condo and quiet park is heaped in the quiet beauty of winter.  Our little patio is heaped.  I love the charming top hats on the bird feeder and saxophone-playing frog—leaning against the feeder as if he were a bit inebriated.  Against the patio door you will see a five dollar poinsettia plant (fake of course) wearing a dusting of snow.  Soon the Christmas plant will be replaced by other fake blooms, until next December.

Now our local ski trials are being groomed for the cross country crowd.  “Downhillers” who long ago exhausted the limited thrills of Midwest runs will throng into airports and board for the high country.  I no longer ski, and I never was intrepid in the high country, although the Colorado Rockies are like a second home and I love to experience their beauty in any season.  While the rest of my family skiied in Colorado, my favorite sport was just sitting outside the lodge in that glorious Western sun and clear, dry air—while savoring a natural Rocky Mountain High.  But there is another winter sport that, in my mind, beats all:  the ceremonial indoor change to spring. 

Here is how it goes around the year.  Late every August I stash my Russel Wright IROQUOIS® dishes, Vaseline Glass pieces, and lemon yellow Depression Glass in a cupboard so that we can adorn our dining table and buffet with Carnival Glass pitchers and bowls, and a harvest-motif set of English china decorated with baskets of luscious autumn produce.  In mid-November, the harvest dishes yield to English Transferware in red and white—paired with ruby red Depression Glass.  Sometimes the red dominance remains in view until after Valentine’s Day, but not this year.  As of today, our village of Nashotah boasts 18 minutes more daylight than we had at the winter solstice.  I’m feeling those minutes.  Extra daylight, winter sun on fresh powder, and the joie de vivre have catapulted me into the new year in celebration of the sparkling season on hand and anticipation of glorious days ahead.

So last evening at dusk we made a seasonal change from red transferware and ruby red Depression Glass—to toothpick holders* and other accent pieces of Vaseline Glass, our lemon yellow Depression Glass sugar and creamer, and (once again) the Russel Wright IROQUOIS® Casual China in soft hues of yellow, green, blue, and pink.  Included in the dining table setting (pictured below), is the Prince Albert MOONLIGHT ROSES® teapot which Joe and I brought home from Cornwall in 1993.  A MOONLIGHT ROSES® cup and saucer accompany the teapot. 

The cliché “What goes around comes around” certainly fits!  Joe and I woke up this morning to sparkling snow outside, and a breath of springtime within—thanks to my passion for, and perennial delight in, seasonal ceremonies.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note:  My parents gave me their gorgeous collection of toothpick holders, many of which are very old.  For years at other homes, we kept the entire collection on glass shelves in large windows.  Now I simply rotate these treasures around the seasons, color-coordinating the glassware with the time of year.

I often reflect on the toothpick holders.  Within my memory are many years before TV, cell phones, and Daytimer agenda books—when folks had time to sit around the dining room table, picking their teeth to remove those shreds of leg of lamb or pork tenderloin. 

Along with fostering a leisurely quality of life, toothpick holders and toothpicks were probably a substitute for flossing.  Certainly a Vaseline Glass toothpick holder and toothpick afford a lot more ambience than could ever be found in that yucky floss which dentists and hygienists badger (no, order!) their patients to use!

As I enjoy the toothpick holders and all the other lovely old glass collections in our home, it is also fun to reflect on how American glass manufacturers produced such exquisite wares during the heyday of art glass—due to special sands and soils in places like Ohio and West Virginia, and the amazing skills of the glass-artisans who immigrated from Eastern Europe.  We have a special cultural history, here in the USA!  MB

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Yesterday my friend, Karen, and I had our annual Christmas tea and gift exchange, at my home.  It was a special treat, as last year at this time Joe was in the hospital—and Karen and I met at the hospital cafeteria for the festive occasion.  What a joy to gather with friends anywhere, but especially at home! 

I have always loved setting a table, as this was my job as a child.  I was free to arrange the settings and decorate the table however I wished.  My mother imbued me with her passion for quiet elegance—candlelight, pretty dishes, attractively presented food—and best of all, the joy of sharing leisure time with family members and friends.  My parents entertained frequently, and even when it was “just family” we valued slow paced ambience at our table.  Nearly every evening meal was a lovely occasion.

At our tea party, Karen and I observed that gracious entertaining is not so common among people today as it once was.  How unfortunate!  The rapid pace of 21st century lifestyles may play into this dearth of ambience.  Yet our mothers were far “busier” than many women today—even some of the “working women”.  Our mothers worked hard and diligently at home, without a plethora of the time and labor saving appliances so common in contemporary homes. 

Now technology has largely replaced elbow grease.  In many instances, an attitude of “Let’s get the jobs done as fast, mindlessly, and mechanically as possible” has replaced that wonderful sense of creative accomplishment and pride in the home arts which motivated women in the past—the same wholesome pride that my friend and I continue to experience today. 

I do not believe the current disregard for loveliness can be traced to economic factors.  My mother entertained during the Great Depression, sharing whatever she had—as elegantly as if she were a queen.  (Indeed she was a queen, in our home!)  A lovely table is not a matter of “what we have” so much as how “what we have” is arranged!  Pine cones in a humble wooden bowl are as beautiful as glass fruit in a crystal compote.  Mismatched tea cups and plates, culled from rummage sales and resale shops, can be as charming as a set of matching bone china dishes when arranged with an innate love for beauty.  Most certainly, it is not the “What“; it’s the “How“!

Some women may be deterred from entertaining due to a concern for “What will people think?”  That pointless, ridiculous question has no place in my life.  It cannot even be imagined when we focus on creating a pleasant setting for people we love!  I’m thankful to have lived many decades without ever worrying about what someone else might think of my home activities! 

Apparently leisurely entertaining and elegant family meals are simply non-priorities in a number of homes today.  The lack of ambience has created a glaring deficit in our culture.  A vicious circle twirls in perpetual motion:  when people fail to create a slow lane atmosphere at home, that failure adds to the frenetic tempo of the fast lane. 

A dearth of gracious dignity and decorum is evident in many other areas as well as homes:  in the careless attire, loud public behavior, and rude manners which prevail.  A case in point is the sloppy attire seen everywhere (even in fine restaurants and in churches!)  Dining out has been rendered pedestrian by the ringing of cell phones.  Somehow, an entire culture has forgotten a basic fact of civilization:  that most forms of gracious behavior are ultimately a matter of respect for other individuals.  In this “Me” generation, respect seems to be a dying virtue—no longer regarded as essential!   

Meanwhile, a little ambience would go a long way toward restoring the soul of our nation!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

Note:  The ruby footed goblets on the luncheon plates await servings of trifle.  Easy, attractive, and so-o-o yummy!

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The 9/11/2011 memorial service at the Pentagon underscored for me the value of reverent ceremony.  I believe that we humans desperately need ceremony with substance behind it.  Obviously, down through history there have been ceremonies and rituals devoid of meaning—and some which have been perverted, pagan, and even evil in content.  But as a civilized nation, allegedly a CHRISTIAN nation (which I wish the USA could still claim to be!) we need ceremonies such as yesterday’s 9/11 memorials—ceremonies which quiet our hearts and minds, cause us to reflect, and encourage the best in us.

Ceremony is characterized by respect, a quality sadly lacking in mainstream America today.  Ramifications of our culture’s lack of respect (and lack of ceremony) may be evidenced in poor manners, which are rampant.  Crass table manners, loud cell phone chatting in public, and sloppy attire at occasions which call for a degree of formality are just a few indications that our nation no longer stands on ceremony or values respectful manners.  Even the ceremony of singing our National Anthem at our pro-football games is highjacked by soloists who belt out “The Star Spangled Banner” as if it were some tawdry nightclub “tune”. 

I’ve always loved high school and college graduation ceremonies.  To me, the concept of a young person launching into adult life is immensely touching.  How disillusioned I was, years back, when I attended a University of Wisconsin, Madison commencement where champagne corks flew and many of the graduates horsed around noisily during the program! 

Conversely, I was recently encouraged to witness a commencement at St. Norbert’s College in Green Bay, Wisconsin where an atmosphere of decorum prevailed, where participants and viewers were inspired by the fact that dignity and respect are not totally dead!

Yes, it really is all about respect!  Respect for our flag, and the values represented therein.  Respect for occasions requiring solemnity.  Respect for others.  Respect for all of life! 

At the everyday level, I treasure ceremony wherever I find it!  When a gentleman opens a door for me, I’m effusively grateful.  My husband and I grew up in families where standing on ceremony was a given.  Hence, to this day my husband and I wait until all diners are seated at our table before beginning to eat—even in situations where we all get our own food at a buffet.  My husband taught our sons to seat me at the dining room table, just as he seated his mother when he was young—just as my father seated my mother!

Table manners are expected in our home.  We try to remember not to talk with food in our mouths.  There is nothing that disgusts me more than the sight of someone talking while chewing, and worse yet talking with food falling out of his or her mouth!  These may seem like little details, but they are tremendously important.  My husband and I want life to be as gracious and pleasant as possible for each other, and for anyone else around us, under all circumstances!

Ceremony!  Respect!  I’m thankful that we saw glimpses of it around the country, in our 9/11 memorials.  I pray that we could see more of it in everyday life!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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