Friday, March 18, 2016

Father had always said grace before meals; always the same twenty-five words, and the ritual was always the same. Mother would look around the table to see that everything was in readiness; then she would nod to Father. That night she nodded to me, and I became a man.
Quote from: Little Britches - Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody

   There are a couple of points I draw from this. The first is the benefits of good, wholesome family traditions, or as Ralph Moody called them, rituals. I believe kids thrive on routine. Of course, we don't want everyday to be exactly like the day before, but a little structure goes a long way with kids. I think they need a stable platform on which to try and make sense of the world. There is something reliable and familiar with family traditions. They are the things that draw our minds back to home and fuel our fondest memories. They teach children what is important and instill morals. Think of all the little lessons that can be learned from the quote above. Here are a few I drew from it: Mother and Father were in charge and they were a team, grace before meals was important, Mother valued order, and meals were a time for the family to gather with no other distractions. I'm sure there are other things you can get from it and I'd love to hear them. Or tell me your family rituals.

   When I was pursuing a bachelor's degree in history I took an anthropology class. Turns out I'm much more interested in anthropology than history, but at the time I was already in my third semester of history and the Army ROTC was riding me to get my degree done on time, so I felt like I couldn't switch fields. Anyway, I wrote a research paper for this anthropology class about coming-of-age ceremonies. I became keenly aware that we, Anglo-Americans and for that matter any American who has lost his or her original cultural heritage, don't really have a ceremony or even a life event where we are considered a "man" or a "woman." Is it when we get our drivers' license? graduate high school? enter college? graduate college? or is it an age thing like when we turn16? or 18 and can vote? or 21 when we can drink alcohol? or 25 when we can rent a car? Ok, the last one was a bit of a gripe I had with a rental agency once, but the point is, that there is no point at which it is generally agreed that we become adults. I think that those cultures that have coming-of-age ceremonies do their youth and their community a huge service. The youth are not confused about when they need to begin acting as a fully contributing member of their society. They are also taught during or through the ceremony important lessons of what is expected of them, skills that they will need, and what attributes they are to acquire and which to avoid. I bemoan the fact that there was nothing of the sort for me. I think many American youth are confused about their roles in society. I was free to coast, probably far too long, before I had to learn the hard lessons of adulthood. It has created a kind of cultural crisis for our youth. 

   Although the circumstances behind Ralph becoming a man were tragic (spoiler alert - his sick father died), there is at least the fact that he can pin-point the day he became a man.

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