"We become whatever is whispered in our ears while we cry."

Principles chart the course. Companions define the Journey.

Pale. Impossibly skinny. Knees knocking in her electric green swimming suit, she eventually climbed down the ladder from the high dive. Her friends didn't make fun of her, and probably didn't think anything of it, but ever since she was twelve years old she's seen herself as someone who's too chicken to jump.

In high school, for fear of living her life stuck and climbing down ladders, she jumped too much, too easily, and was frankly still too much in that mindset when she met and fell in love with the man with whom she's spent the past 53 years.

Their kids were born before she was ready, but then again so were everybody's kids in those days, and who can ever really be ready anyway? Each child was like a new high dive, each one higher than the one before. The challenge was always greater, running the house alone most of the time while her husband was away with his job. Five swimming pools, miles beneath her. She's not sure she ever really jumped into motherhood the way that she wish she could have. 

She worked hard, and she was always there, but time and again she found herself saying the "right" thing, the decorous platitude, when she knew what her kids, and sometimes even her husband, really needed was for her to leap into the pain or doubt or terrifying dreams where she could see they were drowning. 

She loves them ever so much more than the meals, traditions, and symbols she's offered them.

What she wants is for them to be free. To jump when they're ready. To know they're not alone. And it breaks her heart when she sees them climb down ladders in their lives. Did she teach them that? 

When her husband retired, he reinvented himself and kept going, while she had no idea who to be or what to do next. An old panic closed in on her, but then, for reasons she's never felt the need to explore, the ladder and the height disappeared, and she was suddenly just "in the pool." There wasn't enough time to be afraid anymore, and there wasn't any purpose to it. The pool is meant to be fun. She laughs thinking about how long it took her to realize that simple truth. 

Common Matriarch PACKAGE DETAILS

  • Principal interviews
  • Family interviews
  • Associate/friend interviews
  • Printed honor book
  • Non-family honor book version
  • Original illustrated children's book
  • Commissioned art 
  • Original music
  • Family gifts
  • Advice book
  • Honoring event / experience
  • 6-18 month total engagement time

Please think of this as an abbreviated list of variations from which we can build the engagement.

The moment on the diving board wasn't something she'd ever thought of as a recurring theme for her life. She'd remembered it, of course, and she'd seen parallels in other situations, but it hadn't knit the story together before.

There were tears as she remembered specific moments where fear had won, and where the kids or her husband was left to swim too alone. When her family first read her story, they all said she was too hard on herself and that they understood. There have been conversations since those first readings, though, where her children ask about specific moments from their childhoods and ask what she wishes she had done differently. Some of those questions are about the child's own conclusions, but just as often, those questions are really about her kids wanting to love their own children better.

In addition to the book of her story, each family member received a book of simple advice entitled How to Swim, According to Grandma. Woven around ideas of risk, joy, letting go, floating, sunburn, putting on wet swimming suits, lifeguarding, and high dives, her most prized message is that the point was never the ladder, or how a person gets into the pool. Today, she says her role is to teach swimming lessons, and that begins with being in the water herself.

An invitation arrived in the mail one summer's day. The caterer, photographer, face painter, DJ, the entire family and a few dear friends, 63 people in all, were waiting at the local swimming pool that was closed for her private party. That day, pale as ever, the 72 year-old matriarch carefully shuffled to the edge of the diving board, and jumped.