A Fun Weekend

The fun started when we learned that Geri Ann was flying from Oregon into Saint Louis around midnight Thursday with plans to drive a rental car down to the farm. Erin was to be surprised since she did not know her younger sister could make the upcoming baby shower. Gerald told me with emphasis not to tell. Imagine my horror Thursday night when I texted Geri Ann asking if she were in Saint Louis yet, and almost instantly I received a reply from Erin saying: “No, I am not flying into Saint Louis until Saturday morning.” (I knew this already from her call to Gerald, but she probably thought he had not told me all the details, which included her plan to meet her mother-in-law there, who was flying in from Minneapolis.)

Since my copy of the sent text showed plainly it was to Geri Ann, I was afraid Erin would see that if she looked the text a second time. I did not want to be the guilty one ruining the surprise. Fortunately, I have now learned that the name of the intended recipient does not show, and so Erin did not suspect that I was really talking to Geri Ann!

I have a terrible time with modern technology, and I did not dare text either sister again Thursday night. I went to bed puzzled. It took me until the next morning to figure out that I had put Erin's phone number not only under her own name but also under Geri Ann's. Obviously, I am not too familiar with texting, and I guess I had not texted Geri Ann recently to discover my error. (I dropped and broke my phone and had to put all phone numbers in a new one.) Ah well. It is corrected now. Geri Ann was asleep in the brown room when we got up the next morning.

(The brown room is where people choose to sleep if they need to sleep in. Our house has a walk-out basement and lots of light enters, but three back rooms have no windows—a bedroom and my office and Gerald's office. The bedroom has tan walls and ended up being called the brown room to distinguish it from the bedroom in front with yellow walls.)

After a nice visit, Geri Ann was off to Johnston City to visit her long-time friends Cierra (Cece) and Dustin and little Matt—Geri Ann's god child—now a toddler. We knew our daughter-in-law Vickie and the third sister, Tara, were starting from Texas after attending Tara's three boys' school musical, and they might be arriving sometime after midnight depending how soon they were able to actually get on the road. However, some time during the night, Gerald had a text saying they had decided they better stop at a motel before continuing. I think Geri Ann came back late after visiting Gma Shirley and spent the night again in the brown room. Quite frankly, that was the last I even tried to keep track of those coming and going!

Saturday morning Vickie and Tara came through Anna and picked up the special cake with a pink elephant on top with at large pink bow (all made of icing) and Caroline's name on it. They went onto the event center at West Frankfort where some entrepreneur had revitalized the Old Fire House for celebrations such as this. Geri Ann was directed to go there to wait for whenever she was revealed to Erin!

A huge high ceiling-ed room awaited them there that had once housed fire trucks, and they wanted to make it pink and pretty for little Caroline's first party. So they were busy unloading table cloths for the many circular tables, table flowers with peanuts holding them in their vases, tables for signing and gifts, and bags of animal crackers for favors. They also had to gather various foods and set up to feed us the next day! I am not sure who all showed up to help. Gma Shirley was there to visit and help, and Mary Ellen and Brianna showed up before the day was over. Since the hostesses did not want Erin to have to prepare for her own party, we had the pleasure of a long visit with her during the afternoon before we took her down to spend the night at her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris's house.

Sometime in here, Elijah had arrived from Chicago, and he and Trent were briefly at our house before they went shopping for baby gifts, I think. Before the evening was over, Geri Ann and Brianna had joined them for whatever mischief they had planned. Having Geri Ann with them was a special treat, though they missed Cecelie and Sam, who could not make it. By then we had learned that their cousin Leslie and husband Mike would not be coming up from Nashville until Sunday, so there would be a bed instead of a couch available for Lige. Tara and Vickie arrived at the farm after a late night supper in town. I knew they must be tired after their previous 36 hours of travel and party efforts. We quickly agreed to leave the door open for whoever showed up later and went to bed as soon as possible.

The next morning Gerald went over and picked up Erin as we both wondered why we had not thought to just let her borrow the truck the evening before. (But we had enjoyed taking her and, thus, visiting a little longer.) Because of our colds and also because I had been needed at Katherine's house, Gerald and I had missed church for a couple of weeks. So we headed out while Vickie and her three daughters were able to visit a bit at the kitchen table. Rather than eat in town as we usually do on Sunday, Gerald and I came back for a quick light meal before we headed to the Old Fire House to join everyone there.

Gerald was pleasantly enthusiastic about going to his first baby shower. While some of our men thought they just were not meant to attend such a party, a lot of them showed up. There were Glasco, Martin, Johnson, and Borum family representatives there as well as Crab Orchard high school friends of Vickie and, of course, her daughters' school friends from Johnston City. I was relieved we did not play some of the games that have been invented in recent years, and instead we just enjoyed visiting and table hopping and lots of eating. I loved seeing people I had not seen in way too long although I am no longer nimble enough to do much of the table hopping. 

I did appreciate Gerry's cousin DuWayne keeping me up on the scores of Gerry's game going on down at College Station.  A highlight for me was seeing little ones there that I especially wanted to see in person rather than just on Facebook--one of whom was DuWayne and Vickie's pretty little granddaughter Camie. And now we have photos of them that Gerald took. Erin looked so pretty and healthy, and she proved she was ready for motherhood when she raced to the big heavy outside door and rescued her cousin's son Bentley, who had managed to open it—even though he is not yet two!

The big event,however, was seeing Erin open so many gifts and seeing the sweet tiny clothes that are so abundant for today's babies. I remember making six flannel night gowns for our babies—and they all four wore those gowns before I gave them away to another mother to use. I also had cute diaper sets given to me—little plastic-lined ruffled pants with tiny cool tops which were a new item in those days. Little girl babies traditionally wore soft light-weight pastel dresses made in the Philippines. I was blessed with an abundance of those because my sister-in-law Ginger had received a carefully hoarded supply from her family in Missouri when her daughter Vicki Sue was born. Ginger passed them onto me, and I think I remember ironing fifteen of them in the living room of our little rented house and laying them on the back of the couch to enjoy before I hung them up. I did enjoy that work although no one needs to iron baby clothes now. I am sure I passed those on also although I would enjoy fondling one of those little dresses again.

Now babies are dressed in soft footed sleepers as well as exquisite clothes for going out and about. Yet young mothers are still passing clothes on since babies grow so rapidly that newborn clothes are too quickly outgrown to ever wear out. Erin loved going through the large shopping bag of her cousin Sarah's beautiful clothes all carefully laundered and ready for Caroline now that Lily Mae no longer needs them. I saw Erin go through that bag twice enjoying those clothes showing them off, and I am sure back in Texas now, she is handling and dreaming over the pretty new things she was gifted with Sunday. Gerald's overalls (size 6-months)and a couple of other farm outfits for Caroline were especially appreciated by all—or at least giggled over. I want to see up close all the books Caroline received if we someday get to visit her Texas home.

I was at Katherine's house after the party, but family members gathered to eat party leftovers that Vickie fed everyone at our dining room table. I am sure they were all tired but happy,  I arrived home in time so enjoy this too. Soon the younger ones were off to eat Mexican in town and continue to wind down.On Monday morning, although it quickly melted, there was snow on the ground. Vickie and Tara were already long gone before I woke up at 8. Erin came over from Chris and Louie's, and we had a good visit before we had a final early lunch in town with Erin and her mother-in-law Roxanne before they drove back to Saint Louis to catch their respective flights back to Minneapolis and Dallas. I know Erin was very eager to get back home. Her husband Josh had been on a training event in California for a month; and as service people's lives would have it, he returned to their home just two hours after Erin had to go to Dallas to catch her flight here. So he was being “dog daddy” for their little bull dog while Erin was up here. He had to return to base the next day after she returned home, but she was hoping he would have some time off later this week while she is on spring break from her school. And if so, I am sure she is showing him Caroline's clothes.

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Whence and Whither

The whence of beauty always is unclear.

The whither, that we know, is far from here.

 

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Lily Pads And Leaping Frogs

 

 

Article first published elsewhere in 2009 and re-issued in response to Katherine Gregor's post

 

About forty years ago, there was a daffy Beatrix Potter image in circulation based on the conjoined masculine and feminine symbols. The wisdom quoted was that Woman was the lily-pad from which Man could leap into the ether.

And leap he has! Right into the drink!

Why this should have been current when Feminism was digging in its heels is interesting and somewhat ambivalent.

With Darwin up for consideration again, (incidentally, I have no problem with Darwin and the Bible) I recently revisited the Genesis account of Creation. Post-Fall, one translation states of Woman: "...your yearning shall be for your husband, yet he will lord it over you."  You don't have to be a theologian or a scientist to agree or disagree with this. It has its own compelling mythic power and rings psychologically true beneath all the layers of enlightened revision.

Commonly, women put the interests of their menfolk to the fore and will be the first to shut down those aspects of personality and aspiration which have no room to flourish within coupledom, for the salvation of the unit. This is the principal reason that many fewer of them have historically gained recognition in the Arts.

Isn't it also the underlying reason why Political Feminism is doomed to bring on a whole new set of problems in spite of its achievements? Whatever measures are taken, the truth will shuffle the cards to achieve a status quo and the 'glass ceiling' will exert compression like some ghastly scene from a James Bond film.

No sane person could be against redressing injustice and giving women an equal education and the option of a life without marriage, particularly an independent caring, teaching or artistic life, using her creative and nurturing skills. But that's humanitarianism. There's a sharp difference between that and the drive to compete with men in the boardroom. That sort of high-octane ambition generates resentment, proves nothing and is not worth sacrifice. (However, I am glad there are women in Parliament and some other high places, representing the female experience, who are prepared to struggle with the practical and emotional demands of their career for the greater good.)

Feminism as a Movement has emasculated men to the point where they're no longer confident of their role and can't win either way. It has also produced an excess of androgen in women to the point where some are distressed to find themselves sprouting beards!

Jung explains that pair-bonding is secured by the feminine in the man treating with the masculine in the woman. This confirms the essential identity of both and makes the relationship foursquare.

Women need to take on board, not just in an intellectual way, that on the shared platform of conjugal harmony, he has not arrived on the same train. Novelists, like Danielle Steel, have grown wealthy on peddling an archetype of manhood that is a woman's fantasy. We wish men were like that. At least we think we do. This makes us disappointed in reality and each dysfunctional.

It's all out of kilter and we must make shift as best we can. It can do no harm to trade chores. That's teamwork in a society shot through with multiple stresses and it can't be denied that men possess true inspiration in the culinary department, something that would have been anathema to our fathers and grandfathers, except in the Savoy Grill. But to insist on a division of labour that undermines the natural strengths of each gender is to invite chaos.

While women are the ones to bear children, there will always be discrimination against them in the workplace, with the best will in the world. That we ourselves have undervalued our child-rearing and homemaker vocation has come back to bite us. We are still not content and don't command the same male respect for our role which our mothers and grandmothers took for granted. Were women ever more august than on the cusp of Emancipation? The hand that rocked the cradle a century ago knew a thing or two and was well wised up as to how to rule the world. They fondly allowed their menfolk to cling to the illusion that they were the 'logical' ones!

The wisdom of persevering in adversity is powerful and wreaks change, no matter that it sometimes looks like defeat while that's going on.

Childbirth may be awesome, but I sometimes think it was a mistake to allow husbands and partners into the delivery room. Our forebears just got on with it and preserved a little mystique. Today, we somehow get the idea that we're not actually living unless we're 'on stage' every step of the way.

That's probably down to Shakespeare. Now, I wonder whether he was able to appreciate that Anne Hath-a-way with him?

Upon reflection, perhaps it was the other way round!

 

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Gender Equality: Women's Attitudes.

International Women's Day makes me feel uneasy.  The fact that there should still be a need for it.  For all the leaps and bounds we've have made in Europe and other countries since the relatively recent times when women couldn't vote or own property, there are still many issues to address before true equality is achieved between the sexes. And one thing I feel very strongly about is that more could be done by women themselves to redress this imbalance.  

Every International Women's Day, I mentally give thanks for having a vote and for all the countless other rights I enjoy which were denied to my female ancestors and, still now, to millions of other women all over globe. But I also feel deeply sad when I think of how many women – perhaps inadvertently – still fuel this gender inequality with their own attitudes and the signals they send out to men and, especially, to other women.     Perhaps our first step should be true independence and self-sufficiency.

    Naturally, I am speaking here about women who have a choice.

    A few weeks ago, I was at a lunch, surrounded by half a dozen or so women I admire greatly for their education, their professional achievements and their indisputable intelligence.  Every woman at that table could be a role model for any little girl. This is why I was somewhat shocked to discover that I was the only woman there who had not changed her surname after getting married. The others had kept their own names in the professional field but, in their personal lives, had legally taken on their husbands' surnames. Time and again, I am surprised by the overwhelming number of women – and young women at that – who take their husbands' surnames after marriage. Some will argue that most of us carry our fathers' and not our mothers' surnames, anyway, but there's a huge difference between being given a name as a baby, when we have no choice in the matter, and consciously, actively choosing to take on a man's surname in countries where this is no longer a legal requirement. Doesn't that send a message akin to saying, "because we love each other I will let you own, change, part of my identity"? I hate to say this, but to me, this is setting the tone for inequality from the outset.  Please explain this to me if I am missing something here.

 

How can you attain equality without self-sufficiency? A landlady I used to lodge with when I was a student once prevented me from doing an easy repair on the cat flap. She said her boyfriend would do it when he dropped by later.  When I tried to insist, she said, "Never learn to do DIY, or you'll always have to do it."

    Brought up in an all-female household where we fixed our own taps, I was shocked. Actively refusing to learn a skill you didn't enjoy simply on the grounds that you might have to use it at some point in your life struck me as willfully curtailing, in however small a way, your self-sufficiency.

    My landlady was not an isolated case. Too many women delegate financial matters to their husbands because they're "hopeless at maths" (I confess I was guilty of that in my first marriage).  Too many women lack the most basic DIY skills because "it's a man's job".  Women who – and that's something I cannot understand – don't have a bank account of their own.  Fair or not, having at least a little of your own money is the first step to self-preservation, never mind independence.  Many people choose to cohabit without getting married because it's important for them to feel that they're in the relationship out of choice and not because they're bound to it by a legal document.  Trust me, the legal document can be dealt with much more easily than the crippling, paralysing fear, deep at the back of your mind, that you couldn't leave even if you wanted to because you couldn't afford a roof over your head or keep yourself in the style of life you have been accustomed to.

    I believe that loving and respecting your partner or husband is also expressed by not being totally dependent on him, because every ounce of dependence you place on someone else is the amount by which you prevent him or her from being fully him or herself.  Of course, we all depend on our partners in many ways, emotionally, if nothing else.  However, being financially dependent not only gives your partner power over you and limits your freedom, but places you in a potentially very vulnerable position.

 

Every Friday night, walking past the pubs in the city centre, you see young women in sheer, short or very low-cut dresses despite the cold weather.  The men, on the other hand, are dressed for the season.  Apart from feeling astonished that they don't feel the cold, I   can't help but wonder: Why not just bring a jacket or a wrap in case they feel cold later  or in case it rains? Are they so sure of their health? Are they consciously or unconsciously relying on a man gallantly giving them his jacket? I see these young women balance on such high heels, it is anatomically impossible to – should, God forbid, the need arise – run or even walk fast on them.  As an older woman watching them, they appear to me like the picture of vulnerability and, consequently, potential dependence. 

    A bugbear of mine is women demanding to be paid maintenance after a divorce if they don't have young children to support.  Women who feel that, having given "the best years" of their lives bringing up a family and then finding it hard to get jobs in middle age (and, yes, this is a social reality, unfortunately), they are entitled to be supported after a marriage has ended.  As a divorce lawyer I once met put it: a marriage is a relationship, not a pension plan.  Having no children myself, I cannot begin even to imagine how hard or even almost impossible it is to keep earning while raising a family well.  But I also know women who, as soon as their children started school, began attending courses, keeping abreast of developments in their professional field, and taken on part-time work.  Admittedly, many cannot go back to their original, pre-family careers, so they learn new skills.  I am not, not, not suggesting this is easy.  Only that it is worth doing whatever it takes to keep as much of one's independence as possible.  How can someone who consciously allows herself to be dependent be viewed as an equal?

    I frequently come across women doing work they enjoy, often artistic jobs, which don't pay enough to support even just them alone.  They have the luxury of being able to do this because their husbands have "proper" jobs.  Apart from the blatant unfairness of the situation, what if these husbands suddenly lose their "proper jobs" or decide they want a divorce? Are these women equipped to survive financially? I know only too well how soul-destroying an unfulfilling job can be, but, surely, we have a responsibility to have at least the potential to keep the wolf away from the door, don't we?

    I love it when my husband or a male friend automatically pays for me in a restaurant or coffee shop.  It's so chivalrous.  But, sisters, we just can't have it both ways.  In general, I am often surprised by the number of self-proclaimed feminists who turn all 19th century fair sex as soon as it comes to putting their hands in their pockets.

    

I feel very strongly that one of the ways towards gender equality is also solidarity among ourselves.  Wherever possible, it's important that women stick together, encourage one another, are sympathetic towards one another, and not undermine members of our own sex.

    Let's stop watching one another in the mirrors of ladies' rooms, trying to assess who is better dressed, better made-up, more attractive, more of a competition out there where the men are waiting.  Let's stop putting one another down.  It is deeply sad but undeniably true that too many women see other women as competitors rather than allies.  Too many catty remarks are made where praise and appreciation would be much more constructive.      At the beginning of last winter, wearing a new russet-coloured coat and a Tudor-style, brown velvet hat on a slant, I went to see a female friend.  The two men I was with had commented on how lovely I looked, so I rang my friend's bell, a smile on my face.  She opened the door, took a quick look at me from top to toe, and said, "Gosh! Russian winter, is it?" My smile disintegrated.

    A couple of years ago, a friend invited me over for tea on the occasion of her birthday.  H. had a prior commitment, so I went alone.  To be fair, my friend didn't bat an eyelid, but the other woman in her living room, complete with husband, said, "What? Without H.?" Her arch tone and raised eyebrow suggested a hint of disapproval rather than genuine surprise.  But perhaps my making it an odd number of guests made the room look untidy.

    Many a man is invited over for supper, by the wife of a couple, while his wife is away, "so he doesn't eat alone, poor thing".  How many wives are invited over for dinner while their husbands are away?

    When a woman is single, it's true to say that – at least in this country – attached women will socialise with her when their husbands are otherwise engaged and seldom invite her to couples' outings.  Are they afraid that she cannot hold her own in a conversation without a man present?

    Several years ago, a friend invited me to her engagement party.  "Please bring someone," she said.  

    I was single at the time, so told her I'd be coming alone.

    "But you'll have no one to talk to!" she replied.

    I hadn't realised that it was a "bring your own conversation partner" event, or that she viewed me as a ventriloquist's doll.  Needless to say, I declined her invitation.

    My new female friend L. tells me this strong territorial instinct is a naturally-programmed leftover from our primitive female ancestors, who had to fight tooth and nail to keep other women from their males in order to ensure their very survival and that of their offspring.  I like to think that we have evolved since then.  We've had the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Sturm und Drang, and the Suffragettes.  It's time to shake off the primitive leftovers, right? 

    Time to take full responsibility for ourselves, and treat our fellow women with compassion and encouragement – always.  The fact that many men still consider us as second-class citizens is not a reason to lose our self-respect and our dignity, but, on the contrary a reason to consolidate it.  This isn't about their attitudes, but ours.

Scribe Doll 

 

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Latest Comments

Rosy Cole Lily Pads And Leaping Frogs
20 March 2017
I'm glad the post still has resonance. As Mrs Thatcher famously said: "The veneer of civilisation is...
Katherine Gregor Lily Pads And Leaping Frogs
18 March 2017
This is a very interesting piece, Rosy, and I agree with muchl of the views you express (only "much ...
Rosy Cole Gender Equality: Women's Attitudes.
14 March 2017
I have to confess, Katia, that on many fronts, I feel as unsettled about International Women’s Day a...
Monika Schott Just do it. Go.
14 March 2017
Thanks, Sue. Yes we were lucky to get to visit earlier this year. Some things you can't question!

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