Sunday Morning ~ Home Ec Lessons
January 20, 2019
It was junior high and home ec was not optional. The boys took shop and the girls took home ec with Mrs. Burke. She wore boring skirts and sweaters and seemed to have very little job satisfaction. We started in September with cooking and we learned to measure exact volumes of ingredients resulting in uninspiring products. I remember the day we learned to bake a potato (seriously!) and Kathy forgot to turn the oven on. We went to test for doneness and found the potato still hard as a rock. By then class was over so we didn’t get to eat it and I remember being mad at Kathy thinking it would certainly affect our grade. This is the problem with working in groups. I think I overreacted. It may have been our first fight.
In the spring we moved on to sewing. I’d been sewing Barbie clothes as well as my own for a few years before I got to seventh grade and didn’t like having to go back to basics. Measuring out darts and making aprons bored me and I wanted to show off how much I could already do. I wanted to get it done quickly and I was reprimanded for not following the appropriate sequence of steps. It was excruciating. And, adding insult to injury, my showmanship was punished with a poor grade and I couldn’t even blame Kathy for that. Instead, I blamed Mrs Burke for being so unreasonable. I’d heard my aunt tell my mother that I was going to do well in home ec because I already knew how to sew! I remember being proud and was looking forward to finally being good at something. Well, I didn’t do well in home ec. I hated measuring stuff and hated pinning darts. I had my own system and Burke was cramping my style. She told us we were the worst class she’d ever had, the same praise she heaped on other classes. Honestly, how any of us came away with any shred of creativity after that was miraculous. The gym bag we made was too small for our gym stuff. Poor design, though the lime green and pink print I’d picked out was pretty. I wonder what ever happened to that bag? It’d probably be quite trendy now, for a lunch or something. Not for the big sneakers, white socks, and kelly green jumpsuit we had to wear for gym. Good God. The crosses we had to bear. And all that was before the sexual harassment and discrimination to come! This was intro to Inferiority Complex 101.
My school chums and I spent a lot of time talking about all this over the past few days. It’s our annual school girls reunion weekend, our tenth. That means our classmate Mike has been gone for ten years. Hard to believe. We appreciate how he brought us together and toast to him each year. You’d think we’d run out of things to talk about after ten years, but there’s no end to the reminiscing. Each year brings new stories and revelations and now that our memories are fading we can tell them over and over and still find them hilarious! We just crack ourselves up.
On Saturday we made signs for the women’s march in Bar Harbor, (a bit slapdash since we were rushed after lingering over coffee and more storytelling), then stomped our feet with others in solidarity on the village green. Young and not-so-young women inspired us before we came home to thaw out and eat again before we got down to chores. Three volunteered for kitchen clean up and five of us ventured into the woods to get branches for kindling and fill the wood boxes. A storm was coming and we wanted to be sure we had enough firewood for a full day of cozying. We all work so well together. I turned from the load of wood I’d just deposited and saw everyone hauling and stacking and working together like a well oiled machine. I remarked about how seamless this all seemed and wondered if it was because we all took home ec together? I remarked that maybe we should consider living together in a small village when we are old, infirm widows. We could share chores and keep each other company. We do it so well. There were exclamations of “Yes! I’ve always thought that would be neat!” Then one said with the utmost sincerity, “As long as everyone knows I can do pee and poop but not blood or broken bones.”
By Sunday morning it was snowing hard and though I had every intention of getting this blog done by afternoon, the Prosecco we drank at brunch and the two coffee and Bailey’s that followed sent that intention down the freezing drain. The snow and ice kept up all day and the fire we lit at seven in the morning burned until midnight and we never even got dressed. We looked though old photos of escapades that we would have forbade our children to even consider and shivered as we considered what could have happened. We are so lucky to be alive. We went through the yearbook and wondered what happened to classmates and teachers. We wondered how different our lives would be if we had computers and iPhones back then. What if bullying wasn’t tolerated? What if those who got pregnant weren’t sent away? Would we be sitting here, cherishing our friendship, filling in missing details of weddings and boyfriends, singing our alma mater and marveling that we remember the words? We acknowledged all we were grateful for: decent wine, micro fibers, warm pajamas, jewelry we love, forgiveness for dumb things we did that hurt each other. We could put off shoveling until we felt like it, we could meet next year in Puerto Rico, we could dance to oldies if we wanted, and we did. We drank lemon water and tea all afternoon and remarked how this must be some sign of getting old. In years past that would have been a sign of weakness. The girls remarked that I’d furnished the bathrooms with better quality toilet paper than usual and though I could have taken credit for that, I had to admit it was George who’s upgraded that department and stocked up before he left. Some of them had even brought their own, knowing what their previous experience was here. Such sweethearts. I love these women. We’ve held each other up, kept each other safe, held each other’s hands while we laughed, cried into strong shoulders over a cheating boyfriend or husband, been there when our parents died, or husbands, or classmates. We’ve believed in each other and celebrated our various talents, which, despite our high school experience, managed to stay lit until there was enough oxygen to fan the flame.