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Women and Their Fight

     I have been taking literature classes and reading about the struggle that women have had to gain simple independences. It’s sad that for many years we fought against the prejudices of men to gain the freedom to vote, possess property, find employment, and enjoy independence. Now we fight against each other in our pettiness and our insecurities. We scrabble to gain the imagined upper hand when we should be supporting each other in the fight we still have for equality.

     This war exists in the classroom, our workplace, within our social sphere, and sometimes within our own families. Have we, as women, fought so hard that we are unable to get out of the mindset of fighting? Do we imagine that if we don’t continue to hone these skills, that should the need arise to resume the fight for our independence— we will have lost the skill? Do we fight out of fear that someone will take our imagined deserved place?

     It has come to the feeling that we cannot share the successes we have for fear it would be tantamount to firing the first shot. Our allies are made up of cliques. Our shields are made of distrust. Our bows are made up of suspicion. Our arrows are made of gossiping. We wield guns of backstabbing and shoot bullets of whispers. Veiled threats are encroached behind vapid smiles.  

     I was thinking about this idea as I was assigned to write a poem in one of my classes. The instructions were to incorporate repetitions with a simple rhyming structure. If possible – aim toward an argument. I don’t claim to be a poet; a fact that I gave as a disclaimer when I was instructed to read it out loud in class.

 

As Women 

As women we fought for equal rights

Equal rights were our rallying cause

Now our time is spent fighting because

As women we were raised to give sleights

 
As women we should hand out praise

Praise should flow easily as the rain

Flowing easily it’s hard to contain

As women let us combat the clichés

 
As women can’t we value one another

Rather than compete with our gender

No more competition with each other

As women we ought to be tender


Our strength would be better served fighting inequality and injustices rather than each other.

Grandma’s Cup and Saucer


            For a recent class, I was required to read an essay by Liz Rohan on the use of material rhetoric to create and store our memories. During the reading, I had a flash of recognition and understanding for an activity that I have been doing since my grandmother passed away. My happiest memories coming out of a difficult childhood were the summers spent at my grandparent’s house in the deep Ozarks of Arkansas. A hillbilly farmer’s wife, my grandmother was large, loud, rough and hardy. Yet there was an activity she did on a nightly basis that decried her appearance. After dinner was over, my grandmother would take out a delicate cup and saucer from her good dishes, pour coffee into the cup, add two lumps of sugar and a dollop of fresh cream from her cows. Carefully balancing the small saucer in one large calloused hand, she would take hold of the little cup handle with the hefty fingers of her other hand, pour some of the coffee into the saucer, set the cup down on the kitchen table, and sip from the saucer. Watching my grandmother daintily sip her coffee this way, rather than the usual mug she used in the morning, was a puzzling mystery until I was old enough to join. She explained this was how the hoity-toity church ladies would drink their coffee to show their refined manners. Later I realized that my grandmother, though resigned to her lot in life, truly wished for and wanted to be something different. It was from my grandmother that I learned to love coffee and I drank it exactly the way she did. Until the day she died.

            I realized that I, like Janette (the woman in the essay), was building a piece of mnemonic material to enhance my memories. Not in the form of a quilt, but in the form of a collection that started the day I was forbidden to travel to my grandmother’s funeral. After her death, I was sent a small dish that she kept her hairpins in, her cookie cutters, and the rolling pin that my grandfather made. The first time I made cookies with the cutters and the rolling pin, it was as though I was watching my grandmother in her kitchen. As explained by Rohan using any of these pieces had the ability to transport me back to the geographical location of my grandparent’s farm (372). I made the decision to locate the rest of the kitchen items that I watched her use. Since 1986, I have scoured antique shops looking for and purchasing the same kitchen utensils from her kitchen. These pieces of memory are now housed in a special cabinet in my own kitchen. What I also find when I use them or look at them is a sense of nostalgia for those happy times from my childhood. Using items that I have collected from that era with new recipes is an example of remediation. “The new and old mediums reinforce and interact with each other” (376). Not only am I remembering the time when my grandmother taught me to use the rolling pin, I am making new memories with my significant other as I teach him to roll out a piecrust or with my sons, as we cut out cookies using my grandmother’s recipe and her cookie cutters.

            There has been one piece of artifact that I have not been able to locate. That is the duplicate to the cup and saucer my grandmother used. In my searching, the idea has always been to locate the dishes; however, I have always known that somehow I would be content with the cup and saucer. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s in her later years, eventually dying from the disease. While living in a nursing home she continued to drink her coffee the same way with the same cup and saucer. Rohan explains the use of physical objects for the recollection process states, “Memory had to be housed outside the mind – elsewhere, in things” (370). Not only did her continual use of the cup and saucer connect her with pieces of herself she was losing to the disease, but for me to locate the cup and saucer would keep the memory of my grandmother alive. Not only with the tangible item she used, but also by duplicating her nightly ritual of pouring the coffee from the cup into the saucer, setting the cup on the table, and sipping from the saucer, I would be creating a type of memorial. Complete with two lumps of sugar and a dollop of fresh cream.

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Works Cited

Rohan, Liz. “I Remember Mamma: Material Rhetoric, Mnemonic Activity, and One Woman’s Turn-of-the-twentieth-century Quilt”. Rhetoric Review 23.4 (2004): 368–387. Web...

© Avie Layne 2012