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Tuesday, 05 October 2010

Always Women

By Johna Ferguson

In thinking about writing a book titled, Important, Unimportant Women in my Life, I started wondering which women played an influential part in my life when I was growing up. Their advice, ideas and habits all helped shape the person I now am.

I decided to try to look deeply into each of their lives, at least the parts that concerned me. I wanted to see if I could gain some insight about my current behavior and beliefs learned from these infamous, but to me famous women.

First it was mothers, then maids and then 12 young girls all living on both sides of a block long alley. Then it was primary/middle school with all women teachers, men were off at war, then high school cliques and finally college and sorority living.

Finally marriage, children and other mothers always talking about how to raise our children and then all of a sudden the empty nest as the children all left for college or other things. I divorced and went to China to work but now 25 years later, I am still here part time. Why?

I know that environment fashions our lives to a certain extent. Of course genetically, we are somewhat as our ancestors and our parents were and then perhaps fate also has a hand in it. But I think there is still some other ingredient that makes us as we are and then sends us here or there.

The wind picks up the dandelion thistle and tosses it every which way but I don’t think it also picks up our DNA and tosses it around so freely. There is some unknown ingredient that gives us a weak or strong backbone; that makes us silent or talkative; perhaps that makes us adventuresome or shy.

I’m not a doctor, psychologist or anthropologist, but I do know I was shaped and made the way I am partially from the influence of various people during my lifetime, but mainly by women since throughout all of my childhood and young adult life, I was always surrounded by them.

First it was my mother’s influence, but at the same time also that of two neighborhood mothers, both close friends of my family. There was Aunt Rhea who lived next door; her daughter was my closest friend.

Rhea opened my eyes to women enjoying politics. She also taught me it's all right to be an individualist as long as you didn’t step on anyone’s toes. She proved to me that women can go on alone in life if they so choose as she had for years after her older husband died.

I learned from seeing my mother and her together, how important it is to have a close friend to help you out in times of need, to laugh and share the joys in life with and to cry with over the sadness and problems one must face during life. She outlived so many of her friends, including my mother, and yet she faced it all with a smile. I hope I can live my later life as Aunt Rhea did and go out with a smile on my lips.

Aunt Babe was another close neighbor and friend of my mother’s. She never attended college as mother and Rhea did, but her father was a Washington Supreme Court judge and from him and her mother she learned all the graces a young girl needed to find an appropriate husband.

She never involved herself in any community work as Rhea and my mother did, but she did go to their book and gardens clubs. It was to her house as I often went on my way home from middle/high school for I knew she would be home with a glass of milk and a freshly baked cookie. She always seemed interested in hearing all my problems from school work to boy friends.

She was referred to as “horsy.” I thought that that meant she loved horses for her daughter Sally had one and was an expert rider. Later, I found out it meant she had a long, thin face with a pointed chin, was tall and angular and wore her hair in a mannish short-bob. But she had a wonderful deep, yet friendly laugh; one could say she probably never giggled or acted silly or foolish in her entire life. But she was kind, considerate and tolerant to everyone including animals.

I wouldn’t call her stern or outgoing, just reserved in her own way. I think she taught me how to be a lady; how to sit and how to carry on a conversation with all types of people I might meet.

These are only two of the twelve I have chosen to put in my book, but I will write a chapter on each one of them eventually and delve deeper into their influence on me. I think then I can understand why I am as I am.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a great idea and one I just might try to steal in some way. I loved hearing about the two women you described.

I enjoyed the way you found the wonderful elements in each woman.
Though I think you meant they were unfamous not infamous.

Johna - Great memories of past mentors.

This got me thinking. If I were to undertake such an exercise, I too would concentrate on the influence of women. The men of my childhood helped me with skiing, hiking, and sailing, but were not particularly reflective, and thus never helpful with personal issues.

Thanks - Sandy

Estelle: What with my serious dyslexia, I am never sure of the right words to use, but unfamous does not sound right, and I used infamous meaning they were notorious in the way they influenced me. If I really used the wrong word, please correct mt. Johna

I have to agree with Estelle--I don't think you mean "1. disreputable, ill-famed, notorious. 2. disgraceful, scandalous; nefarious, odious, wicked, shocking, vile, base, heinous, villainous." You could easily change it to "these women, famous only to me." (If you'd like.) It is a wonderful story and tribute to these special mentors of yours.

Good story. I love giving credit to the women who played a big part in making you who you are. Isn't it interesting that you take some parts and don't take other parts of a person.


Roget would be proud of you and so am I. I love people who use all those terrific words...

Johna.. As usual, great story. Well told...

Nancy, I love words. I plan to have my writing workshop make a list of all the new words they have learned in the last decade--just because we're in our 70's and 80's doesn't mean we aren't constantly learning new vocabulary.

I guess I should have suggested not famous rather than unfamous, but why not coin a new word ourselves now and then. They have to get started somehow. Like having unfriend and defriend popping up now.

This discussion reminds me of some of my poetry writing group's sessions.

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