When women form a circle
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
August 1, 2020
It used to be a sewing circle where women gathered from surrounding farms and nearby towns to sit and chat while their hands moved stealthily over quilt pieces with sharp needles and multi-colored threads.
They would create a beautiful piece of art out of scraps for a bride or newborn baby or a sick friend. Every stitch with love and care followed the chatting and sharing of their everyday lives and challenges. They supported or admonished one another, cried together in grief, laughed together in joy. Of course, not all women sew these days. They read books and form book clubs, write together as a group, play tennis or golf, meet for drinks at a trendy bar. Whatever interest that draws them together, they share and sometimes bond. They have for ages, and bonding is for all ages.
One of my favorite reads of all times is book #34 of the Campfire Girls series, written in 1917 by Hildegard G. Frey, one of numerous Campfire Girl authors from 1900 through 1936. In “Campfire Girls, Larks and Pranks” a group of teenagers are joined together through club membership, meeting in an old barn turned clubhouse and getting pranked by a group of boys while pranking back. There are costumes and a show disrupted by a naughty donkey. What has always drawn me back to read this book again and again is its humor. It makes me laugh out loud. Of course, in today’s world, much of what is the fabric of their lives would not be acceptable in ours. Separations by wealth and privilege, the use of Indian dress and tradition. But it never hurts to immerse into our past to help us also understand our present and create a better future. This book is an example showing women drawing together, from youth, to hold each other up and share both the happy and the sad days.
The same is true of an even younger group of girls. The Baby-Sitters Club series, written by Ann M. Martin with 36 novels published between 1986 and 2000, revolve around four main characters. Kristy (founder and president of the club), Mary (secretary), Stacey (treasurer) and Claudia (vice president) merge with their varied personalities and skills, and bond while babysitting energetic children and fussy babies for desperate parents.
Sometimes bonding lasts decades. In the newer novel, “The Lighthouse” by Jessie Newton published this year, the reader is introduced to women in their 50s and also their pasts while teenagers, where they first developed lasting friendships. Busy lives spread them across several states, with careers, marriages and parenthood. When the leader of their old sisterhood has them gather for a funeral, they bring with them challenges and secrets. Robin had always been like a mother hen, but is feeling lost as her teens grow up and prepare for life away from her. Eloise always knew the answers to everyone else’s problems but still not her own. Kelli needs to find balance. Alice must learn to be true to herself. A.J. needs to let go. And Kristen wants to be stronger than a secret she holds. Can their old bonds stay strong through new challenges?
Sometimes bonding comes by circumstance and without choosing. Such is the story found in “The Paper Bracelets” by Rachael English. In recent years we have gleaned information about the tragic homes for unwed mothers in England in the 1900s. The shame poured upon the women and girls. The babies taken from mothers in cruel ways, never to be found again. Nuns who did their best to break their spirits and so many times harmed their souls. The paper bracelets were put on babies at birth and taken off when the babies were taken away. Two dozen of the bracelets remained in a shoe box for decades, until Katie’s husband died and she determined it time to try to reunite some of the babies with their mothers. Katie was a nurse in the home for two years, over 40 years earlier. With the help of a niece, she uses the internet and reaches out. The results are both joyful and heartbreaking, as is life. But it is the last mystery that breaks the reader. This is not a good book for people who want to move away from their troubles, but a wonderful book for those who want to find personal perspective by living virtually through another’s.
When we step out of our own circle and into the circle of someone else, we many times find balance and new purpose. May it be so with you, my brave readers.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment, though the reviews are real and sincere.