Women to Women

My daughter lifted a tea kettle onto the stove, turned to wipe the kitchen table clean, slipped a fresh shirt over her three-year-old’s head and began to lift clean dishes out of the dishwasher. A stack of soiled ones on the nearby counter waited for their turn in the machine. I spotted a new painting I hadn’t seen before leaning on a side board. I inquired, “Niki, when did you paint this picture?”

She glanced at it and answered with a shrug, “Sunday afternoon. I was in the mood to paint. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I still have some work to do on it.”

I marveled at her work, “It’s beautiful. You are so artistic.”

Niki scoffed, “No. I’m not artistic! The work isn’t original. I get my ideas from the Internet and just copy them.”

Shaking my head, I disagreed, “Not everyone can copy ideas and make them turn out as well. Don’t be hard on yourself. You are very artistic.”

Both my daughters enjoy doing arts and crafts. Most of their inspiration for their projects have come from the Internet. On a daily basis, new recipes, paintings, party ideas, home decor and fun family activities flood the cyberspace. Many people glean the information for grains of information they can use.

What Niki and Tammie are doing is not new. Women through the ages have enjoyed sharing, gathering ideas and inspiration. When I was growing up, there were many woman’s magazines on the market. Mom and the neighborhood women used them the same way my daughters use the internet.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, magazines had very few advertisement pages, but lots of stories to enjoy, patterns, recipes, party and decorating ideas. All of the information the magazines contained was geared to the average family living in America.

There is no way for me to gauge how many ideas Mom and the other women gleaned from the magazines. I know of a few times that stand out in my memory.

One afternoon while I was playing with Barb, Donna and Alice in their yard, we were offered a snack. This alone was unusual, but what we were given was even more unusual. Up to that time, no one would have even dreamed about combining peanut butter, bananas and walnuts on store-bought bread, so we knew the idea had come from one of Bernice’s magazines. I remember standing on their lawn by the house and looking at the sandwich between bites and thinking how amazingly delicious it was! Peanut butter and banana sandwiches will always make me think of my neighborhood cousins and their mother, Bernice.

When I was in grade school Mom put on a Halloween party for my cousins and me. She got the idea from a magazine article which suggested decorations and even a game to play. In the corner of our farmhouse basement Mom hung sheets to make a booth. On a table inside, she set out bowls of pealed grapes, cooked spaghetti and half-set Jell-O. One by one we were blind-folded, led through the curtain and invited to touch. We were told Dr. Ben Casey removed eyes when we touched the grapes, the spaghetti was intestines and the Jell-O, brains. Threads hanging from the rafters tickled our cheeks like cobwebs. We screamed, shuddered and totally loved it!

What else inspired, informed and enriched the lives of women before internet and women’s magazines? I suspect church picnics, quilting bees and other woman to woman visits played a big part. One of Tammie’s friends was a Peace Corps worker in Morocco for two years. Kate lived in a small village where she and the native women shared their lives and learned from each other.

It doesn’t matter where the ideas come from; the internet, magazines, visiting neighbors or from a member of the Peace corps. The paintings, recipes, outlandish sandwiches and party ideas that result, enrich the lives of everyone.



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