The second evening of the program, Alan had us go into the woods and find some sticks to make a memorial to an ancestor we each wanted to honor. I found my mother easily. She was a branch with lots of subsidiary branches with little tufts at the ends. I brought her back to the fire pit, decorated her with dandelions and fern. Then I put some stones in the pits of the branches.
I wanted to be the first to offer to the fire so I wouldn’t become anxious waiting. It worked. People wanted to know her name. That’s a long story, but to make it short, on the first day of school for her, her neighbor called her over and told her to say her name was Dorothy when they asked. It was originally Deborah, but the neighbor had been reading the Wizard of Oz and my mother was young and naive (as she was till the day she died). So she became Dorothy.
In personality, she was like my offering: sociable, dramatic, sensitive, diverse, insecure. She liked to dress up, she liked to cook and garden. She called herself a basement-widow, as my dad was the opposite, preferred working on his various projects to socializing. I put the stones there because she was always saying “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me.” I don’t think that was really true for her, but she liked to say it, hoping to toughen me up.
The majority of offerings seemed to be about mothers, sisters, female friends. It was very moving to hear the various stories. I’m not much on public confessionals but there was a warmth around the fire fostering friendship and support. It was good.