We all love vintage photos and here’s a classic. It’s my mother with her pearls, apron and frosting. It doesn’t get much more June Cleaver than this, does it? I love this picture because it captures a woman I didn’t quite know; my pre-kids-mother. A woman with time for herself. A woman with life all her own.
Do you ever read Taproot Magazine? It’s the “magazine for makers, doers & dreamers” and its stunning, advertising-free pages are worth every bit the $12 one forks out for each quarterly issue. In this spring’s opening letter, Editor Amanda Black Soule writes of the handwork her grandmother and mother did back in the day. She describes this act of making things as nothing romantic—not the art forms we appreciate them as today—but rather something they just did. No fanfare. No recognition. Certainly no social media shares.
Instead, these generations of women gained a sense of creativity and empowerment.
“In some ways, she had had very little personal control or power over the course of her life,” Blake Soule writes of her grandmother. “But she could sew all the clothes for her children, and she could earn some of her own money by sewing for others, so practicality and utility were at the core of her survival. This, this act of making things—often from next to nothing—was her gentle power.”
My mother also sewed. As mother of seven, she had little time for personal expression, yet she did so through the beautiful outfits she made my sisters and me. She cooked and baked with the homemade artistry that foodies today slaver over. And interestingly, even during the burgeoning era of processed foods in the 1960-70s, my mother still gardened, canned and froze much of our food—very innovative for her, having grown up in suburban Chicago. I guarantee she didn’t wear pearls in those years.
Isn’t it sad that for centuries these skills of domesticity went largely unacknowledged? Yet, think of the creativity required for such work. The productive management of time. The inventive use of materials. And, of course, the heartfelt originality of giving.
Like Blake Soule, it wasn’t until I was grown and had my own family that I came to fully understand my mother’s creativity and how she expressed it through her household work. The work she just did. Nowadays we have Pinterest and lifestyle blogs, and sure, they sometimes do get a little over the top. But isn’t it nice to see an appreciation for the artistry of domestic makers and doers? And isn’t it inspiring to see women create their own playing fields for such skills with businesses, blogs, CSAs and farms?
So, you may notice I’m a couple weeks late with this Mother’s Day ode. I could say it’s been a busy month, which is true. But here’s the excitement I’ve really been waiting for, the ultimate in motherhood and creativity. Let me introduce to you my newest granddaughter—isn’t she a doll!
I’m so proud of her mother. And I’m excited seeing life ahead through the creative eyes of this beautiful child.