It’s funny to me how little things start the synapses firing, interesting the trains of thought our brains run on. Recently, I put some Carmex on my lips from a roller tube and remembered when they didn’t have those, but only those little glass tubs, and you had to apply it with your finger, which made me remember when a sweet friend taught me (without words, during church) what to do with what was left on my finger after applying it.
Then I started thinking of a bunch of other things I’ve learned from other women, little silly things I should have already known, big important things, and some in between. And I bet half (or most) of them don’t even remember teaching me the things that they did. Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of them, not in order of importance, just sort of as they occur to me. I would love to hear (read) some of the things you’ve learned from other women and still remember the occasion of learning.
Since I already mentioned the Carmex, I’ll start there.
Janet Aaron taught me what to do with the rest of the Carmex after applying it to my lips with my finger. We were in church and I just held up my Carmexy pointer finger and looked at her with a puzzled expression on my face. She smiled and rubbed her pointer finger in the center of her palm. That works. It doesn’t get on anything or bother you there and eventually absorbs. And that made me remember . . .
Kerri Craig taught me how to keep lipstick from getting on my teeth after putting it on my lips. You put your finger in your mouth like it’s a Popsicle and pull it out. Pop! That removes the bit that would end up on your teeth. And that took me back to the first years I ever wore make up when . . .
Amy House taught me (she said she figured it out from watching her big sister) how to get mascara off your face quickly when you accidentally jab it there while aiming for your lashes. Just push and rub real quick while it’s still wet. If you don’t push, but just wipe, it will smear.
Mary Foland taught me what the phrase “root cause” really means and why it is not just always wrong and redundant as I thought it was.
Hazel Sanders taught me to not ask questions (or make suggestions, or really say anything at all) while men are fixing things or moving things for you. I will never forget hearing her gasp, then shake her head at me lovingly but sternly when I started to say something in such a situation. I trusted her, so I shut up and have done my best to stay shutted up in similar situations ever since. Sometimes it just isn’t possible, but I try. Hazel also taught me about Stitch Witchery, this neat stuff you can mend holes in fabric with.
Jeanette Cox taught me the words counterpane and antimacassar. And she taught me how to do ceramics, and how to make green peas taste really good (salt, pepper, butter and SUGAR.)
Phyllis Cocke taught me some stuff while I lived next door to her for 16 years: several good recipes, the fact that my child is drinking out of the condensation pipe outside instead of bothering to come inside for a drink – oh, and that he’s NAKED out there! She taught me how to get magic marker off a 5 year old, (or, that you CAN’T get magic marker off a 5 year old) and how to be a really good and kind neighbor.
Barbara Sharp, my across the street neighbor for those same 16 years taught me that too, in addition to being another surrogate mother for my niece and nephew and rescuing my youngest child from peril (as did her husband on another occasion, but he’s a man and this is about women, but still – thank you, Don!)
My sister-in-law, Jené Hunter taught me that wearing a sweater will make you warmer (duh, Donna.) When I had not yet figured out that everyone with a public building and a thermostat in Texas is crazy and I should always have a sweater with me, she did have one with her which she loaned me. That is when my current habit began of always having a sweater or hoodie (usually several in my car at any given moment and sometimes a small blanket) with me.
My mother taught me more than I can list probably, but here are a few. She taught me to cook, take care of children, including changing a baby’s diaper – the real kind with pins, and how not to poke the baby with the pin. “Put your hand in there so if you poke anything, it will be your hand.” She taught me how to sew – which I had almost forgotten I knew how to do until I had a little girl and started pumping out little dresses almost as if on autopilot. She taught me a love of reading. She used to fall asleep reading to me at night because I just would not (or could not) fall asleep. She says she remembers me waking her up asking her to keep reading. I asked her to teach me how to go to sleep, and she gave me the steps. “Lie still. Close your eyes. Breathe. Don’t talk. Don’t think.” I never could get the hang of it. She taught me appreciation for music and theater, taking me to Casa Manana to see “Porgy and Bess,” Roger Miller, and others. And she taught me “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” how to “heap coals of fire on their heads” when people were unkind, and that I could “get glad in the same pants I got mad in.” My mother is the greatest.
Laverne Aaron, my other mother when I was growing up, taught me that she knew what she was talking about when she said not to take the dolly’s clothes off after she fixed it for me, because that’s all that was holding it together . . . Oops. Guess she meant that. She taught me that ruined isn’t necessarily ruined when she sewed a bunny applique on to one of favorite little tops and covered up the ink that had gotten spilled on it. I honestly don’t remember how it happened but I probably did it. She taught me there were such a things as caramel apples! I remember watching her make them and then eating them for the very first time at her house. (Sure was not the last time. Yumm!)
My grandmother, Grandmama Donnie, taught me, unconsciously on my part, to french braid hair. She never taught me to do it or even showed me purposely (that I remember) what she was doing, but she used to french braid mine when I was little, and I guess I absorbed it on some level, because one day when I was about 17 years old, I just started fiddling with my hair and came out with a perfect french braid. I didn’t remember learning it, but just knew it. From then on I wore it that way frequently and sometimes did Kami’s to match.
My mother and grandmother both taught me to crochet when I was just a little bit. I don’t remember which one taught me first. But I didn’t learn to knit until about 15 years ago and my mother taught me that.
My daughter, Sarah Cox, teaches me (or tries to; this is hard for me, like going to sleep is) to let things go that hurt me. She is freakishly good at this – forgetting things that were painful – to the point I told her I think she has a special kind of brain damage. But I’d like to have that damage. And she teaches me to go DO things that I want to do. Also hard, but worth the effort when I can manage it.
My cousin Marsha taught me a trick that has a near 100% success rate for quieting a crying baby – even those of complete strangers when they’ve given me a shot at it. I’m sure she didn’t invent it, but that’s where I learned it so I call it the Marsha Rock. You stand up with one leg far in front of the other, holding the baby on one shoulder, of course cradling his/her head, and rock BIG back and forth. It either soothes them or freaks them out, but one way or another they stop crying and often fall asleep.
A hospital nurse with a Jamaican accent taught me a thing or two about nursing in 1983. She had no problem at all just putting her hands right on my boobies and maneuvering them into the position she thought best while instructing me. Another one taught me in 1994 how to convince my baby to take a pacifier when he thought he didn’t want it and wanted to keep screaming instead, or nurse constantly. You put your hand on his cheek while inserting the pacifier. The feeling of skin on their cheek makes the rooting reflex kick in and they turn toward the hand and start sucking that sucker.
My cousin Andi taught me (accidentally I think) not to ride fast downhill on a bike with hand brakes. Ouch. I’m sure if she had it to do over again and knew how ignorant I was, she would have told me BEFORE I started down the hill. I still remember a car load of cousins driving along beside me screaming something out the windows. I didn’t know what they were saying until after I flew ass over tea kettle. (Oh, and Mary Foland taught me that saying. I think her mother taught it to her.)
I have a wonderful and very sweet mentor teacher at work this year, Janis Jayroe, who generously teaches me from her experience anything I need or want to know about my job. This year, my 3rd year of full-time teaching, I am getting what every teacher needs her 1st year – better late than never! That guidance and support is invaluable. She was also one of the people who interviewed me for the job, and I was hired, so I can’t thank her enough for that!
There are more I’m sure. But this is probably more already than most people will read. Thanks, if you did.