Once upon a time my 3 boys were suddenly old enough not to need constant attention. On this rainy day they were playing in the house. The proximity of my ears were enough supervision, rather than the eagle eyes I would need if they were outside. I always let them have friends over and so I remember they played happily.
They had invented a game that involved going up and down the basement stairs and all around the floor. The lights would be off and cushions of the sofa dragged about as obstacles in the pitch dark. It was a “find each other “game or a “make it to the safe base” game, however I was never told the rules or asked to play. I only know from overhearing snippets of rule clarifications. I created a few uproars when I turned the lights on suddenly with a bulletin to deliver; and I would be told through moans in different octaves depending on boy size that I ruined some hiding place or some crucial strategy.
I had a rule that no sofa cushions could be taken off the sofa upstairs as it would make my skin crawl; we all have our limits with certain things. But the rule was lifted when it came to the downstairs playroom; the old peach colored sofa and loveseat had removable seat cushions and back cushions and so there were 10 huge stuffed rectangles and 4 throw pillows to create with. I threw in some blankets, so tents of all types could be made. On a rainy day this provided hours of entertainment. The boys were easy going and really liked each other. This meant that after years of not reading much, I could once more dig in. I only had to break my concentration mid day to make and serve a double batch of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. In those days we thought it was nutritious.
So feeling content in this world that was all male, I made a cup of tea and pulled a throw onto my lap and leaned against pillows and I picked up this thick book club book called “The Red Tent.” I entered a different world. It is a fiction book about Old Testament times, and the women then. I had been feeling lukewarm about starting it. I was surprised to find I could not put it down. It seemed so true to me when I read it that I swear the author was one of the actual old testament women at one time, a woman who had lived “BC”. I thought she must be reincarnated and remembering the story as fiction now, it rang so true.
Women know that when women work together in community and close proximity their cycles align. They menstruate at the same time. We have so many helpful feminine products now, but historically things were not so easy. And so, at this “time of the month” the women would gather together in the red tent. It was filled with hay. They would sit and flow into the straw. Young girls and little boys, mothers and grandmothers would make and bring their meals to them. Men were not allowed near this tent.
When I imagine the red tent, I hear the whispers of wisdom from grandmothers to newly fertile granddaughters. I see new infants being passed from woman to woman to be snuggled. Little toddlers plunking down in a sisterhood that that had all the time in the world for story telling or finger games or blowing on tummies, or kissing piggies, or lullaby’s. I see women braiding each other’s hair, and flowers being woven in. I hear talk about the characteristics of men. I hear giggles and sudden laughter. I see tears of joy and tears of sorrow. I feel growth and greater awareness from shared life wisdom. Why, oh why did we ever let our red tent time go away!
May the red tent be symbolic for us all, men and women. May we all carve out some red tent time, or carry a red tent within. I carry my tent in my heart. I close my eyes and can see it and feel happy just at the thought. All are welcome, I am so glad you stopped by! In my tent I have pillows all around, and lanterns for when it gets dark, and good books in a stack over there, and puffy quilts, and oh look at the lilacs I picked that are in this bucket, can you believe how good they smell? Here are sketch pads and colored pens if you have dreams to write down, and oh my darlings I hope to make you feel my admiration for you, my highest love and respect, I want to hear you with my most powerfully focused listening ears. I see the real you here, please feel the warmth and depth of my affection as soon as you come through the tent flap. Come in and spend time, there is nowhere else you need to be. Look, here are two doggies for you to play with, and the laughter and games of children, and the sound of the oldest stories that were ever told. Right next to me is my Johnny K and space for his tent things; and I am not sure what he is bringing in but I cannot wait to see. And if he needs a tent annex to disappear into that has a manly project in it, I am thrilled about it. I have my annex. There is music and dancing in my annex!
What’s in your red tent?