Around 8th grade, I started to blossom. No, not physically, although the girls in gym class teased me so much that Mom finally bought me a real bra. In reality, my white t-shirts had probably done just as good of a job.
Where I did blossom was in developing confidence in myself. In school, I got into public speaking and participated in speech contests across the county. That’s when I discovered that being a bit of a ham was both fun for me and entertaining for others. My first entry was the story Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss. To this day, I can still recite most of it from memory, which is really only appreciated by my 5- and 6-year-old grandkids. Unfortunately, they are probably even outgrowing it as well. I guess it’s time to upgrade to Horton Hears a Who, huh?
During the previous year, my two oldest sisters both got married and moved out of the house. That caused a distinct shift in our family dynamics. For one thing, Mom delegated more of the cooking to me, especially fixing dinner and making cookies. Having a large family, my endeavors were always greatly appreciated, which of course made me more self-assured.
There was only one time that a batch of cookies was not completely devoured. As it happened, I was the one (unfortunately) who made them.
I was making gingersnaps, which are made with molasses, formed into a ball and then rolled into sugar before they are baked. The delicious aroma of the baking cookies spread throughout the house and brought several eager young taste testers on the run.
It wasn't until we sampled the warm, freshly baked cookies that we realized something was terribly wrong with them. They were horrible!
Apparently, Mom had been cleaning out the kitchen cupboard that day. In order to wash the salt shaker, she had poured the remaining salt into a bowl.
While she happened to be out of the room, I spied the bowl of salt on the countertop and assumed she had left it for my cookies. I promptly set about rolling the cookies toward their doom.
As I said, that was the only cookie failure I can recall that someone would not eat, sooner or later. In this case, not even the family dog ate them.
Around this same time, my 4-H sewing projects grew more complex. Before long, I was making almost all my own clothes. I’m so grateful my mother taught me how to sew well, in spite of having to patiently rip out seams that were not done quite right. As I went to show Mom my latest completion, I held my breath, hoping she would not say once again, “Do it over.” As frustrating as that was, I knew by the time I finished the garment that I’d have something to be proud of. And so was she.
With my mother as my biggest fan and strongest supporter, I quietly learned that I could do anything I set my mind to. Even though no one in my family had ever gone to college, I always seemed to know that I would go. The choice of direction could be anywhere. For me, that opened up a world of possibilities. Seemingly overnight, I realized that the amazing things I constantly read about in books were (and are now) within my grasp. What an awesome legacy for her to leave me!