As far back as I can remember, my mother (whom I called ‘Peach’) and I were best friends. She was a physically large woman, but was calm, gentle, and very strong. Growing up, Peach was determined that I would become an independent woman.
Now let’s be clear on one important fact. I have four brothers and Peach was equally determined that my brothers also be independent. She believed that if she raised her sons to be dependent she would be doing a great disservice to womanhood; my brothers all cook, do laundry, vacuum, care for children, and respect women.
However, what she wanted to impress upon me specifically was the blessing I had because I was born a girl. Although there are many cultures throughout the world that still do not ascribe to that philosophy, Peach agreed with the words William Ross Wallace wrote in his Victorian poem, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”.
Undoubtedly, there is much influence a woman can and often does wield within the confines of her home, but Peach felt equally that there is great strength in numbers – women working together for good.
Fortunately, I had the chance to witness this and soon found great comfort in the company of women.
Peach and her best friend, Grace, began a women’s group at church that gathered one Monday evening per month to plan everything from fundraisers to Christian education and worship events. Occasionally, Peach would take me along, reminding me to stay quiet and just listen.
These meetings began for me once I was out of the residential school for the blind at age eight. I loved to sit there, feet swinging as they didn’t touch the floor, while some women worked around a quilting frame and others knitted or crocheted, sharing ideas and plans with a healthy interjection of laughter.
On the day of each planned event, Peach would take me along. I always enjoyed the buzz of women busily setting up, decorating and putting out trays of sandwiches, cookies, squares and pouring copious cups of tea.
They say that olfaction is our most effective trigger to memory and certainly I cannot think of those times without the scent of salmon and egg salad sandwiches in my head. Those events were the essence of industry, accomplishment, camaraderie, friendship, laughter, and food.
The first Friday of March, now called World Day of Prayer, used to be known as the Women’s World Day of Prayer. On that day, women would gather in churches at 2 P.M. and follow a service with a specific focus on a group of women or a woman-themed project somewhere in the world.
Holding these prayer meetings at the same time everywhere meant that there were women praying the same prayers, sharing the same information and singing the same hymns over a twenty-four hour period around the world – as it is always two o’clock somewhere.
Peach felt it was important, so she would take me out of school to attend together. Sadly, I was often the only little girl there but somehow that made me feel even more special and I was just so proud to be with Peach. Of course, the meetings always concluded with the obligatory tea, cookies and squares. I found great comfort in the murmur of women’s voices in prayer, and joy in the raising of their voices in praise through songs and hymns. I am sure that women in synagogues can relate to similar experiences.
Nowadays, women are sharing thoughts and friendship through book clubs and yoga classes; sandwiches have been replaced by avocado toast, and tea by a glass of wine, but there is still much to be enjoyed through the camaraderie of women.
However, we must not be ashamed to acknowledge our fundamental influence in rocking the cradle and, therefore, our ability to raise men who love and respect women and, thereby, change the narrative.
Friendship, laughter, industry, food, comfort, and women working together to rule the world — now that is bliss!