There is a mighty woman who lives in Stockbridge and her name is Michelle Gillett.
It is my great good fortune to know Michelle.
She inspires me as a mother, a writer, a community leader, as a feminist and as an athlete.
If you want to know more of that story, then perhaps it is the correct moment in time
for you to order your anthology.
Michelle has the power to make me laugh and cry within seconds.
And, she challenges me to write better, think more clearly, and wear short sleeves.
Michelle floats my boat.
How about you? Do you have friends who urge you to pick up the 12 pound medicine ball instead of the measly old ten pounder you’ve been hauling around this year?
Or perhaps, you have a friend who asks you to look more closely at the way our culture sees women today, who celebrates the shifts and works for further change?
Michelle is all that and more.
I am so happy she has come OUT with us!
“The Mother’s Day that means something, the Mother’s Day that is not a duty but a real holiday, is about the perfect mother. It is about the mother before she becomes the human being, when she is still the center of our universe, when we are very young.
They are not long, the days of construction paper and gilded rigatoni. That’s why we save those things so relentlessly, why the sisterhood of motherhood, those of us who can instantly make friends with a stranger by discussing colic and orthodonture, have as our coat of arms a sheet of small handprints executed in finger paint.”
There have been posts on Face book of the gifts women have received on Mother’s Day. My friend Nichole’s daughter drew her mother in anime. Another friend’s kids ordered in Chinese food. My daughter promised me an hour of her day in the garden, which she promptly delivered, then went inside to bake a cake. My son, well, his box of Whitman Chocolates came with a card he has yet to sign. But he enjoyed regaling us with the story of the CVS clerk who was berating every single guy in line with a card or box of candy on the morning of Mother’s Day. The few…the happy few…the “band of brothers” there in line with Hallmark in their hands.
I don’t have any actual gilded rigatoni, but I do have this.
And until I get that card from Ben, I do have this.
I have been dipping in to my friend, ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ author, Michelle Gillett’s book A Celebration of Motherhood and there, found this quote by Anna Quindlen, who herself has a new book out. You can read a lively interview of Anna written by her son, who is a writer for Barnes and Noble. This quote, about the coat of arms for mothers made of small handprints, highlights what I have been up to all spring.
My daughter is about to graduate the 8th grade from her Waldorf grade school. There, this step in a child’s educational journey is celebrated with more pomp and a bit more circumstance. Her class has been together since first grade, with the same class teacher, a unique quality of Waldorf education. The pomp comes with a recognition of the closing of this groups’ time together, and the circumstance celebrates their next steps.
I am on the yearbook committee. Pouring over the equivalent of ‘gilded rigatoni’, over discs of photos delivered by parents too busy to sort them, which means I get to see their versions of events, the back of their kids heads as they squirm away from their parent’s camera views. It is as Anna says, this ubiquitous and ordinary, universal and tender experience, which you memorialize by saving the random and intentional tributes made for you by your offspring. ( The more I write here, the more I am hoping Ben writes something in that Mother’s Day card.)
In the bigger world there have been some poignant tributes to mothers. Proctor and Gamble offer this one. President Obama, this one.
I espouse further gratitude for our mothers in an effort to stir appreciation for what the women around you are up to. Whether or not yourself are a parent, we are all sons and daughters and have the capacity to enrich our lives by appreciating what was or was not done for us by our mothers.
Don’t stop with your gratitudes. I promise, they will open a door for you.
Here are mine for today:
Gratitudes for my Mom:
1. I am grateful she sent me to a Lutheran grade school in Chicago where I could meet friends I still love to this day, with common affection for Fritos and for violets at Easter.
2. I am grateful that Mom read so much as an individual and to us.
3. I am grateful for the house she bought after being divorced from my Dad and all the effort she put in to creating a haven for my sisters and me.
4. I am grateful for all the things she saved of mine, like all my alphabet pages from Bethesda Lutheran School.
5. I am grateful for the miles she drove to bring us back to Chicago, after we’d moved north to the U.P., to visit our relatives.
6. I am grateful for the love she cultivated with my Dad’s family, especially my Aunts and Uncles.
7. I am grateful my Mom was so stylish as a young woman, that she had this sort of mysterious past of which we know little.
8. I am grateful for her preparations for us, when we arrived home from somewhere, she’d be in the kitchen preparing a meal.
9. I am grateful for the sound of her singing ‘Turaluralura”.
10. I am grateful for the way she set the table, with a centerpiece and candle, no matter where we were eating.
Last week, when Ben was feeling overwhelmed and tired, I knew it was time to stir up some pudding. My Mom was a stove-top pudding person and I have carried that forward. Alana Chernila’s recipe in The Homemade Pantryis where I started last week. In the middle of making dinner, this recipe keeps you at the stove stirring, which means everyone else has to set the table and wait while you serve it in ramekins.Please don’t be put off by those dark bits of unmelted cocoa. In the face of not having all the right ingredients, I always add my own flourishes to recipes, which sometimes yield less than photogenic results, but believe me this pudding is perfect.
It is worth the effort, every stir is a prayer for ease, confidence, integrity and joy. May you be happy(Stir)May you be well(Stir)May you be safe.(Stir)May you be peaceful and at ease.(Stir) and there it is, ready for dessert.
If I can offer my teen agers anything these days, it is comfort.
How about you?
What is in your ‘gilded rigatoni’ stash about your mother?
“What is to give light must endure burning.”
I am slowly putting this page back together again after a bumpy few days.
Life is good and full to the brim. This website it under a bit of reconstruction.
If you would like to subscribe, to keep up with Laundry Line news, please fill out the tiny box up there on the right.
I will doing dancing to this song while you do. If all you see is a blank space here, hit your ‘refresh’ button up there on your navigation bar and a YouTube video will appear.
Here are the much awaited winners of the ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ blog drawing:
Corey Sprague and Lynn Amaral won a copy of my Rice Pudding recipe.
Lisa Millen and Angela Vuagniaux won a copy of Janet Elsbach’s brownie recipe.
Lorrin Krouss won an original letterpress print, first edition on archival paper, by me at PRESS as part of
the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers events.
And Peggy Barrett won Alana Chernila‘s The Homemade Pantry.
I am so honored to get to mail you these gifts.
Here is Peggy with hers. She is a long time reader of LLD. Thank you Peggy!
Look forward to more here on the Laundry Line. I have some new friends here, Jennifer Boire- who’s poem was posted here the other day and Miranda Hersey Helin, who’s Studio Mothers site feels like my home away from home here on the internet. And I still have some wonderful photos of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. I do have a new persona of ‘girl journalist’. Without the training, but armed with my camera and tiny notebook, I love to document events I am part of, which give me results like these.
Michelle Gillett, our poet in the house of ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’, won the first copy of Alana Chernila’s new cookbook The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. Here is the first report from her kitchen. More on this week’s drawing below.
We all win sometimes. I hit the jackpot twice when I got to read an essay about mothering at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers’ event, “Out of the Mouths of Babes.” Not only did I get to read about running a marathon (okay, a half marathon) with my daughter, but I got the added bonus of reading with five wonderful writers. The energy and pleasure of the evening—reading to a receptive and attentive audience, listening to my colleagues’ stories, engaging in a lively discussion about creativity and mothering– made it memorable.
And THEN I won one of the event’s raffle prizes: a copy of Alana Chernila’s about-to-be published cookbook, “The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making.” (Clarkson Potter)
I didn’t leaf through its pages noting what I would or would not be likely to cook as I usually do with cookbooks; instead, I read the stories about food and family that precede each recipe section and found them to be as nourishing as the recipes and advice offered in the book’s pages. Then I looked at the photographs and reminisced about my two daughters when they were same ages as Alana’s girls.
I looked at the photographs some more, read some more. I was as hooked as I am when I read a really good novel. But I thought I should honor the book’s intention and try out a recipe. Since I always make a snack for the writing workshop I teach, I studied the possibilities for baked goods and found a recipe that sounded uncomplicated yet likely to satisfy my students’ hunger after a lengthy discussion of “the unreliable narrator.” (It’s one thing to be an unreliable narrator, but quite another to be an unreliable baker.) I decided to make “Car Snack 2: The Sweet Bar, because I happened to have all the necessary ingredients in my cupboards including Lyle’s Golden Syrup. They were easy to make and delicious.
In the essay my students read in the workshop this week, “The Truthless Narrator,” the author Judy Doegnes writes, “…in the end our unstable world doesn’t topple the unreliable narrator but shores him up.” After our break for tea and coffee and snacks, I encouraged them to try creating their own unreliable narrators which they did with great success no doubt because they were shored up by Alana’s Sweet Bars.
Thank you Suzi and Alana for rewarding me with so much enriching and enduring sweetness!
Thank you Michelle!
Snack bars! Potato Chips? Butter? Alana offers a story for them all along with the warmest of invitations to her table, where, if you are lucky, Joey and the girls will share a jar of homemade pickles they just cracked open.
Would you love to win this book or one of the recipes of our bedtime snacks? Or, a piece of my art work, a letterpress print with a quote from my ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ program?
To register you must be a subscriber to this site already or become one by simply filling out the box in the upper right hand corner of this page. You will be joining my mailing list, which will deliver to you a discreet note every time I put up a new post and a very occasional announcement of Laundry Line Divine events.
One upcoming event is my appearance in Pittsfield at the Alchemy Initiative on April 28 for a day-long FeMail workshop with my collaborator Karen Arp-Sandel. Details here.
Another is my appearance in the WAM (Women’s Action Movement) theatre 24 Hour Theatre Project on April 14th. Details here.
And lastly, Michelle Gillett is leading a Memoir workshop with another of my She-ros, Marion Roach Smith, on April 20 &21, 2012 at the Stockbridge Library. Details here.
But first! Wait! There is more fun with the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers first. Saturday the Gala closing of the Festival at The Mount. I will be there, grinning from ear to ear, celebrating this wonderful Festival and all it has created here in the Berkshires and the ripples that flow out from this beautiful place.
I cannot leave without telling you about another mother author who shared her journey with her adult son, this time in Manhattan. Linda Wisniewski came to ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ blog series through Face Book and I could not be happier. Please read her post here.
The growing list of women offering their insights in to their mothering through the lens of creativity fills me with glee. Thank you authors and readers for joining this discussion.