Monday, July 12, 2010
Feeding Fish and Other Rituals
Flickr photo by petitshoo, creative commons
The granddaddy's knee was hurting him, so he stayed in the easy chair.
"Don't worry, Papa," Sam said, getting up from the couch. "I know what to do."
Todd and I followed him into the garage and watched as he took the Folgers jar from Papa's workbench and lifted the lid of an old trashcan. "This is where Papa keeps the fish food," Sam said, dipping the jar for a big scoop. "You gotta put the lid back on tight or bugs can get in."
Sam led us out to the small pond behind Honey and Papa's house, the one Todd and I christened The Drowning Pit back before Sam could swim. "Keep your eyes on the water," Sam said. "They know when we're coming."
Sure enough. As we padded across the grass to the edge of the water, at least a hundred brim lined up side by side, kissing rings on the water's surface, waiting.
"You take handfuls and throw it out a little, not too close to the edge, so there's lots of room and everybody gets some." Sam threw an arc of fish food out. In a split second, fish lips appeared at each granule, sucking it down. Our edge of the pond became a whirling mass of fish, ready to respond to the movement of our arms as we cast the food across the water, orchestrating a fish dance.
It's a Ramsey ritual, the feeding of the five hundred. Fish, that is.
Papa does it every day, cares for his pets in the giant fishbowl of his backyard. They respond to his footsteps, to his voice, just as Sam does as he takes the ritual for himself.
Unfortunately I had my own Saturday-at-the-in-laws'-ritual to perform. As we happily flung fish food, I managed to sink a bare foot into the only hill of fire ants in the entire yard. The fire ants responded as they always do, quietly climbing onto The Giant Foot Invader, waiting for Chief Fire Ant to give the signal, and then all chomping down on my flesh in one painful sting. But the ritual wasn't over yet. Then came The Hopping Around, The Slapping and The Yelling, and finally The Retreating To The House To Take A Benadryl.
I don't really like this ritual of mine.
But I do like other Ramsey rituals.
They usually involve amazing food.
Remember this photo? I shared it in a post about the wonder of sweet tea, but it's a great illustration of the most beautiful Ramsey ritual of all: Ramsey dinner.
I fell in love with this ritual early in my Ramseyhood.
Ramseys love good home cooking, and they endure a lot to prepare it. When they gather in mass, they'll pull all nighters, drinking coffee and cooking pig. They borrow tables from the church, load them with beautiful food, and then they eat and eat. And laugh and tell stories.
After the meal is over, they'll squeeze in together on the huge sectional couch and talk and take naps sitting up. They look at old photo albums, and they'll tell more stories until they get hungry again. It's a nice way to spend time together.
But this Saturday I saw something new during the meal preparations. As Honey (Grandma) sat at the kitchen table, making the chicken salad for our dinner, my Sarah pulled up a chair beside her for a chicken salad lesson. I watched Honey teach Sarah how to cut the chicken meat fine with scissors, to dice the celery into teeny little cubes, to add dried cranberries and cashews and the tiniest bit of mustard.
It warmed my heart.
Sarah was no longer just going along with the ritual. She was taking it as her own, just like Sam with the fish food.
Aren't family rituals wonderful? They give us a way to express love to each other. They show the world what we value, and they give us opportunities to participate in each other's lives, to build connections. Our rituals say who we are.
It's funny to me that as much as I LOVE family rituals, I've spent so much of my faith life suspicious of rituals in the church.
When we do something over and over, like communion or scripted prayers, won't we forget the meaning behind it? We don't want to turn into the Pharisees, so attached to rules and practices that we forget the loving God behind them all.
But gradually I changed my mind.
I now treasure the rituals we do at church, the Lord's Supper, the choruses of "Thanks be to God," the Lord's Prayer, the Baptisms, the acolytes' lighting of the candle and carrying in of the Bible. I love the way that they give us structure to be with God, to express our love for Him, to get lost in His presence, to build connections. These things that we do say who we are.
How do you feel about rituals?
Do you have favorite ones at church? I'd love to hear about your most loved family rituals!
Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!