As I have studied the world – its history and cultures and traditions, one things has remained constant. All people have made altars or shrines to their ancestors. They lights candles and leave food offerings. We build grave sites and bring flowers. As a Catholic – we celebrated our dearly departed saints and loved ones at this time of year, right after Halloween. It is a solemn time, like a mini-Lent. Time to offer and contemplate what our ancestors might be trying to say. So as I was listening this morning and preparing to make my altar and ofrenda over the next couple days, I decided to write down what I am hearing from them.
The first thing they are saying is that we have to start allowing women to bring their children to work with them. Our current model of cost of living dictates that women must work. It takes a lot of sacrifice or a very high paying salary by the other partner to survive in today’s economy. And that’s when there is a partner. Statistics show that single parenthood is increasing in every ethnic group, every social group, every religious group. More single moms or dads raising families. So the children have to go to work with the mothers. It has historical precedent. You don’t have to look far in to our past to see pictures of babies strapped to their mother’s back while they were working. It created a continuity of that bond that is so essential for the mother and the child. It also allowed the baby to receive its optimal nourishment during early development, their mother’s milk. A viable society supports the development of the child AND mother.
Then once the child is older and mobile, the child should be cared for by the grandparents or other trusted elders. Where are the mammaws and the pappaws out there caring for their grandbabies? That is your line, your continuation, your descendants. If you don’t take care of them, they will not take care of you…. on this side or on the other. Whatever material thing you are searching for, you have lost the chance to get it. Feed into your families, share your gifts with your next generations. Because the mother’s have to work, they don’t have time for the canning and the baking and sewing. But you have that baby right there in day care instead of with you learning from you like you learned from your granny and granddad. IN DAY CARE? No…. that is not where a child belongs. We are letting other people’s minds influence our children’s vulnerable minds. They are not hearing the stories of their ancestors, they are hearing other things. Not learning the family trade or recipes, but learning how to love money. Nourish your tree. You are soon going to be part of the roots. If the tree dies, the roots get dug up and shredded.
Sometimes there are no grandparents. But where are the community elders? Every tribe had the old griot sitting sharing the oral history of the tribe. Every tribe has the old women making the crafts. We have senior citizen centers AND we have child care facilities. Why are they not combined?
Know where your food is coming from. Make your own food. Educate yourself on how to grow things and make things. If you increase in what you make and decrease in what you consume, you will find that you will not have to work as hard outside the home. You will see your family grow closer and support one another. Get yourself a chicken or two. And a goat. You’ll never need to fertilize or mow your lawn again.
These are the things that my ancestors talk to me about and I am thankful. They teach me how to slow down and listen to the birds sing. They teach me how to stop and look at the trees. When I hear my kids say “Whoa!!!! Look at the color of that tree!!!” I feel like I have done my job right. I have nourished my tree and I look forward to many years of tremendous growth. I thank my ancestors for that. I have looked long and hard for you. I have had to piece together a fractured and unsupported past. But we have made it and now our tree grows strong.
So over the next couple days, I will make a beautiful altar to all who have come before me. All who have made me who I am – my adopted family who supported me, educated me, loved me and nourished me. And to my biological family who are the DNA in my body and the blood in my veins. I thank you all.