Sunday, August 9, 2015

Celebrating Woman's Day

Its Woman's Day -  Not that we need a specific day to and celebrate and appreciate the women in our lives – we should be doing it every day. I am blessed to have been surrounded by some amazing women in my life – intelligent, inventive, organized, brave and beautiful. Financial wizards they were skilled with budgets, forecasting and investments. They streamlined processes and were epitomes of organizational efficiency. Masters of recycling, they were lean and green. Style icons they knew exactly what not to wear and instinctively what made them look good. Multi skilled and multi talented, my role models are neither corporate gurus nor academic experts. They are the ordinary women in my family and my community who went ahead of me teaching me with their wisdom and preparing me for my journey.

My grandmother taught me that a little can go a very long way and that chocolate cures everything! She was the only women in her family, the youngest of five children and the only girl, when her mother died she became the mistress of the house, aged thirteen. This meant that she shopped, prepared and cooked the meals, washed, ironed, mended and was responsible for keeping the house clean and warm for her father and four brothers. She did all this without the benefit of modern appliances and in her spare time she attended school - every weekday, and on weekends Sunday school and church! She was married, became a mother and was widowed all before the age of 28. You would think that she may have felt sorry for herself, that she was scarred by her childhood experiences and by today’s standards entitled to a nervous breakdown and an apology from the government. Far from being bitter or sad, she was one of the healthiest and happiest people I have met. She loved chocolate! She ate it furtively and fervently. I think she had learned in her austere early life to keep a little something for herself and to keep this small pleasure a secret. I often heard the rustling of paper after she had retired for the night and the occasional silver paper in the bed sheets gave her secret passion for fruit and nut away.
From my mother I learned to be flexible and to count my blessings. My mother had six of them – three girls and three boys! She used to say that none of us were planned but all of us were wanted and loved and this is how she lived her life, avoiding stress by just surrendering to the day and what it held. We didn’t have a lot of money but everyone was made welcome at our home, she loved company, loved to chat and everything was made to go further at mealtimes as visitors were always pressed to stay. Life was for living and for enjoying and as we moved from a terraced house in town to a new suburb in the countryside - life was a garden. We grew our own everything but not a lot made it into the house as assorted children and pets snacked profusely from our vegetable patch. Mom believed that nature provided everything that we needed to cure our ills, and often used herbs and plants to treat our childhood ailments, not always getting it right but she was very proud of the fact that she hadn’t poisoned anyone - “Yet,” my father used to add!
She taught me to sew and I was making my own clothes at the age of thirteen, using any material I could get my hands on – even if that material happened to be the bedroom curtains! I cringe now when I think of what I walked around in but if she was embarrassed when I wore my creations publicly, I never knew about it. She always told me I looked amazing – I probably did!! My mother encouraged me to be original, to be myself and to enjoy each and every day. She died when she was still in her fifties so I am glad that she lived her life in the present and that I inherited her love of life and her sewing machine.

From my older sister I learned all I needed to know about glamour! Big hair, eyeliner and makeup, winkle pickers and fashion – she was a child of the fifties breaking the rules and easing my passage into turbulent teenage years of the sixties. I also learned to run pretty quickly as I was always in trouble with her for muscling in on her friends and for spoiling her sophisticated image by following her to meeting places and popping up. I made the athletics squad every year at school probably because of all the additional training that I got being chased by her!

Of course we all have a teacher who played a pivotal role in our lives and mine was my maths teacher who was a walking, talking, calculating female who taught me that I CAN do maths. I had believed that equations, fractions and formulae did not go hand in hand with my artistic talents and were quite beyond my capabilities. She proved me wrong and I became quite a maths whizz under her guidance. This also taught me about self-limiting beliefs and the damage that they can do to your potential.
I have an elderly aunt, now in her nineties, who still reads voraciously, puts her Christmas decorations up each year and last time she visited me, she packed her gold sandals “just in case we go dancing”. She has lost both of her daughters to cancer and yet hasn’t given up on life – she’s making each day count.

And then there are my JaJas - who have laughed with me, cried with me, loved me and I suspect kept me sane. I know that I can count on them no matter what .......and them on me! I also belong to a sisterhood and count myself lucky to have  many girlfriends who have walked this journey with me - lending me an ear, their shoulder, their shoes, jewelry, recipes, advice and their skills willingly. I really don't need to hero worship celebrities, the women in my family and my friends are all the inspiration I need. It is indeed an honour to celebrate this sisterhood on Woman's Day!

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