A Small, Holy Room

When I was young, my mother made a set of matching hair ribbons—two purple bows tied onto barrettes.  They weren’t intended for Sunday best or school day attire.  These two clips had a specific purpose.

When one of us needed some “Mommy Time”, she would pull out those two ribbons and put one in her hair and one in ours.  Those ribbons were the most powerful hair accessory on the planet.
With those two clips on our heads, we were in our own space.  No one was allowed to talk to us.  No one could interupt this time.  In a home with many children, like the one where I was raised, and the one that I’ve created, this is a feat not to be taken for granted. 

We wouldn’t usually be doing anything all that special.  We might play a game together, but we were just as likely to be making dinner or folding laundry together.  Or, to be more accurate, my mother was probably folding laundry while I sat on the bed and talked.  But, let’s don’t get too caught up in the details.  

The point is that, it wasn’t the activity that made that time important.  It was the fact that I had my mother completely to myself.  She was honoring me with the gift of not sharing.  It elevated whatever we were doing to a different plane entirely.  She gave me her presence.

This practice was so powerful, it continued all through my high school years.  Not as often, maybe, as when we were younger.  But, at age 16 or 17, I would still happily pull my hair back with a purple bow in order to know that I had my mother completely to myself for a few minutes.

There should be added to your mental image, as well, my younger brother, who would gamely don a purple ribbon in order to get this kind of exclusive attention.  This is probably the least of the things he put up with as the youngest of six and only boy in the house for much of his growing up years.  But, it speaks to the potency of those ribbons

I thought of those purple ribbons and the sacred space they created, when I read this passage:


“Wait.”  Intent and serious, Nokomis filled her red stone pipe with tobacco.  It was a sign that she was going to hear something important, and she took a long time perfectly tamping her pipe, which was good, because during that time Omakayas had the chance to think about just what she would tell her grandmother.  When Nokomis lit the pipe and drew on it, the coals burning, the sweetness of the smoke filled the air around them and made a small, holy room in which they sat, their minds close together.” 
                                                                    -The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich



I am thinking lately about purple ribbons and special pipes.  I am thinking about minds close together and hearts open to one another.  I am thinking about acknowledging the importance of what is happening when I talk with someone I love.  I thinking about surrounding the people I love with a presence so unadulterated that it creates for us a “small holy room”. 

I think, too, of all the things that make it difficult.  Of the halo of updates and notifications that circles my brain unbidden, even when I'm not attached to a screen.  I am thinking of the lists and the to dos.  The dinner to fix and the book I want to read.   I am thinking about how much more difficult this is, even than a few decades ago when my mother tied two ribbons into bows.  And, I am thinking how much more necessary it is, as well.

I am thinking what a sacred offering is our attention.  I am thinking that I need to create more than just a space for my children to inhabit.  I need to offer them a sacred space.  Inside which they are safe.  Inside which they will find me.