Monday, March 26, 2012

A 20th Century Woman

A faint jingle always preceded her and made our little bodies wiggle with anticipation. Aunt Edith opened her door to a linen and lace covered table set with elaborate displays of freshly baked cookies and perfect little sandwiches, crusts removed. As always, the house was in immaculate condition. Truly a feat for a woman nearly eighty years of age. For our part, we used our best manners and sat quietly while tea and glasses of juice were poured.

Aunt Edith was easy to love. She was beautiful; her hair was always coiffed to perfection in soft silver swirls. Around her brilliant blue eyes were lines that expressed a life of love and laughter. Even without prior notice, she seemed always prepared to entertain with delicate treats. She, herself, would never arrive at anyone's house either unannounced or empty handed. Where there were children, her bags always contained an exotic treasure, stacking dolls from Russia or rice paper candy from Japan, perhaps just a few foreign coins, but always something.

It was not just her sweet demeanor and generosity that kept us all in line, it was more her dignified presence. She was an accomplished woman, and she knew it. She was the quintessential modern woman of the 20th century. Born in 1897, she was 23 when women in the US got the right to vote. Raised on an Ohio farm by a single mother of 5 children she learned hard work and discipline at a very young age. Instead of marrying she got her PhD in Home Economics from Ohio State University and spent her life teaching women on farms and in Universities how to save money, clean more efficiently, and prepare the healthiest possible meals for families with limited resources.

Women of her generation generally either had careers or families but not both. Although she was very beautiful, and my mother told me that she had many gentlemen callers, she valued her independence. Perhaps she learned from her mother and from caring for her 4 brothers that a man to look after is not always a blessing. So at the end of her life, her house and property were her own, and she was very proud of this. She had enough money during her final 20 years to travel anywhere that she wished.

Her memories of these trips danced around her in the jewelry that adorned her body. On her right wrist she wore charms from Europe. In her ears were articulated fish earrings from Thailand. Around her neck were mummy beads and a gold scarab from Egypt. But by far, my favorite piece of jewelry was her golden coin bracelet from South Africa worn on her left wrist. It was simply beautiful and it brought to her mind adventurous tales of wild animals and stunning landscapes. There is no doubt that her stories influenced my passion for both jewelry and travel. Without the strong and adventurous woman of our past, we simply could not be the women that we are today.

Thank you Aunt Edith!

*Inspired by the One Minute Writer.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm not OK!

“What would you do if a gun man came to your school and started shooting kids?” I asked my children.

“I’d hide behind the door,” my older son said.

“Do you think that all of your classmates could get behind the door with you?” I wondered aloud.

“I know, I’d jump out the window.” my younger son said.

“I hope you wouldn’t jump from the second floor,” I told him. “I think that I would tell everyone to push all of the desks and chairs in front of the door. And, I would tell someone to call the police on their cell phone.”

“Do you think you would ever go back to your school if something like Chardon happened at your school?” I asked

“Nope, no way!” They agreed.

Dear God! Do I really have to have this discussion with my 9 year old and my 14 year old?

Back in 2010 I wrote about living in the center of the DC sniper attacks. At that time I had one preschool child. Parents drove to the door of the preschool and the teachers would send one child out at a time at pick-up in the hope that only one parent and child would be vulnerable to attack. The school was completely locked down and there was no way to enter without the proper password.

When we moved to rural PA in 2007 it was less than a year after a gun man had killed Amish children at school only 38 miles from where we moved. To enter our little country elementary school, parents had to be buzzed in one at a time. Parents were not allowed to hold the door open for the parent behind them. Inside, they would have to present their license in the office. The license was scanned and checked by a security database before they could enter.

My children were too young then and oblivious to the reasons for these procedures. At that time, I kept the dark details to myself, but this time my children are completely aware. The news is all around them.

My eldest son was date/‘texting’ a girl with whom he had been in theatrical productions. She attends Chardon schools only 25 miles from where we live now. One of her friends was Daniel Parmertor, the boy who was first to die in this latest school shooting.

“How is she?” I asked.

“She texted she was not OK, and she didn’t want to talk about it,” he said.

“Give her some time,” I told him.

What reasons can I give to my children so that they can understand what just happened? Are they safe? When I look at what has happened around us I think perhaps not. We in our very normal suburban homes have been so close to these horrible disasters. I read the statistics and they say that violent crimes in schools in the USA are down, but here we are again, another person out of their mind with a gun. Guns are still too easy to access in the US and mental health care too difficult to access.

Our nation… our global community needs to spend more time meditating on how everything and everyone is interconnected and less time simply watching and mindlessly reacting to the horror of the moment. Compassionate thought should guide our every action, become our daily practice, and this will create our better future.

Please make it your mission to counter every act of random violence with a thoughtful act of kindness!

Peace in all your good endeavors.

I send my love and prayers for healing to the Chardon community and the many grieving families affected by this tremendous tragedy.