Curriculum of the Day: Cultural/Ceremony
We very specifically do not address religion on the Sesame Street domestic show for obvious reasons. I am going to break that rule because: 1) This is a blog and not the TV show; and 2) I’m writing about an event that is about community and family, rather than any kind of organized religion. (FYI—we do address religion in some international shows when it cannot be separated from daily life, or the show wouldn’t truly represent the culture if it were missing.)
Marty was raised Unitarian but is no longer a churchgoer. He put up with going to the service with his mom because she took him to McDonald’s afterwards. I was raised Presbyterian but became a Methodist during my NYC life, mostly because I found a specific church that was close by and had an excellent volunteer choir I could join. We are spiritual people and hope to give Lyra and Ripley a well-rounded understanding of spirituality and religion, which they can make their own choices about as they grow. Being older parents, one thing we do not have nearby is a lot of young family members. Marty grew up with 22 cousins, all of whom he knew very well since they gathered every summer at their grandfather’s lake in Michigan. Marty wants our girls to have some kind of similar experience. However, all the newer cousins that are the product of those original 22 are mostly grown-up and scattered about the world. So, how do we find more local family for our girls? We decided a great way to do this would be to create a “godfamily.”
A few weeks ago, we had our godfamily ceremony at a friend’s house in Harlem. Since this was a non-traditional idea, we didn’t have any traditional rules to abide by. So, we had godparents, godgrandparent, godaunts and uncles, and godcousins—one of whom is a puppet.
My goddaughter Jojo holding her puppet, with Lyra and Ripley’s godaunt Leslie Carrara holding godcousin Lolly.
The event, I have to say, was lovely. Wisely, I hired two helpers from Barnard College, and had the afternoon catered by Carmines (anyone from the Upper Westside will know why—tasty large portions!) The entertaining part went off without a hitch. The ceremony itself was very simple. We introduced each person, explaining why we chose him or her to be part of our godfamily.
The god family group (ignore the red flash eyeballs!)
Then, we had simple “vows” that we read out loud:
Do you – godparents, aunts, uncles, grandfather, cousins – promise to help Annie and Marty guide Ripley and Lyra, both spiritually and artistically, as they grow, showing them through your own experience what is true and just, beautiful, and profound?
Do you – the family support of all our godfamily – promise to help them as spiritual and artistic guides of our children, supporting them in all their endeavors as they help our children on their life journey?
And then, we sang as a group Dylan’s “Forever Young.”
Singing “Forever Young” to Lyra (Ripley was downstairs with our nanny having a diaper emergency but she could hear us!)
You may have noticed the word “artist” in the vows. We realized after choosing all our godfamily, that there wasn’t a doctor or accountant in the bunch—just a bunch of nutty artists. So, we figure they’ll help the girls on their artistic journey, and we’ll just have to do the legwork on the math and sciences ourselves. We’ll start by watching Sesame Street.
Pam Arciero (Grungetta puppeteer)
Jamey Evans (Graphic artist and drummer)
Anthony Asbury (Puppeteer and Chef)
Barbara Jones (Senior Editor Hyperion Books)
Leslie Carrara (Abby puppeteer)
Catherine Gillette (Playwright and social worker)
Nadine Zylstra (Sesame Street producer/director)
Steve Rinehart (Novelist)
Tim Lagasse (Puppeteer)
Lyra watching the ceremony.
Ripley watching the ceremony