SHE CAN DO IT!
I am so glad I didn’t push Suzanne down the stairs all those years ago.
I wanted to, I really did. And now, 35 years later, I am ashamed to admit that I actually wanted to.
She made me so mad. We shared a room and a closet upstairs, and I loathed the fact that she wanted to be like me. She wanted to wear my clothes. She would only buy clothes that I already had. I was about 15; she would have been 11. She made me crazy then.
Not so much anymore.
Now, we can share some of our clothes again, and I love it.
And I love her.
I love Gail too. So much that I realize I am doing the same thing Suzanne did to me all those years ago, but Gail doesn’t seem to mind. She actually seems quite flattered.
I’m talking about a mutual obsession, something I started liking and collecting just because she did. Something Gail has collected for years, and now, for about nine years, I have been collecting the same thing, all because Gail started it.
Rosie The Riveter. The iconic symbol of women who went to work in factories and shipyards during World War II out of necessity. They rolled up their sleeves, left their work and children at home, and did what they had to do, because they had to.
And they did it.
Rosie is not one single woman; not an actual person. She symbolizes all the women who became the mainstay of the factory and shipyard workforce when the men went to war.
Gail, being the perpetual working woman (see September 3rd, Labor of Love, Love of Labor if you don’t recall her work ethic), was right on her wavelength. Gail always had work to do, and she always rolled up her sleeves and simply got it done—just like Rosie.
I recall only one small metal picture of Rosie on her wall in her last home more than 20 years ago, but I sensed Rosie’s importance to Gail. In the last five years or so, her collection has multiplied. Cups, keychains, socks, shirts, and all manner of memorabilia.
About a year after Mom and Dad died, I was at the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene with my boys—recall my Someplace Special post—ending the visit in the gift shop.
Because Dwight Eisenhower was a rock-star Army General and the Supreme Allied Commander who led the Allied Forces to victory in World War II, there was much WWII memorabilia for sale in the gift shop. Among the gifts were Rosie T-shirts; including a bin of long-sleeved shirts on clearance. I decided it was time to get Gail a Rosie T-shirt to add to her collection. She had been so strong for all of us throughout the darkest time in our lives, and she needed a special thank-you.
She loved it.
I got myself one too, and I loved it.
I started thinking about how, yes indeed, Gail was our rock-star fearless matriarch now, our Supreme Allied Commander, and did lead us bravely through the darkness to victory, but there were so many other women, so many important soldiers in my army of friends who were strong for me in those dark days.
To honor Gail, I wrote a little story to explain her indomitable strength. Then, I went back to the Eisenhower Museum gift shop and got some more T-shirts for each of these women. And some more. And I went back again, and again. The ladies in the gift shop looked at me a bit more strangely each time. My list kept growing, and I kept buying each of them a Rosie shirt to honor them and Gail, including a copy of my story about her. My list grew to somewhere around 40. There were so many women who were so strong for me when I was so weak, and to honor them—as well as Gail—I got everyone a Rosie T-shirt.
They were on sale, and while I did have the money, I realized perhaps I had gone a bit overboard. Perhaps I should have kept the list shorter, and put the money in the bank instead.
But the deed was done, the shirts were purchased; the money spent.
Within a few weeks, I got an interesting piece of mail, something I didn’t expect. A check for almost exactly the same amount I had spent on the shirts arrived in my mailbox. We had overpaid on our mortgage escrow account, and it was a refund check. While it was indeed our own money, it was truly a surprise, and again, it was almost exactly the same amount as my T-shirt expenditures.
I am convinced that had I not purchased the shirts, the check would not have come.
I believe in Karma. And Rosie. And Gail.
Of course, I believe in Suzanne, too. However, being the minimalist she is, she is not a Rosie collector. And we respect that. She is strong. And she can do it. She has done it, and she continues to do it. Right now, however, she is on some beach, somewhere, with someone else. So, at this moment, we are a bit jealous.
Because many of the original Rosies were also mothers, their husbands absence essentially made them single mothers. These women were known to form communities whereby they would help each other with childcare, laundry, housekeeping and cooking. Some shared homes, taking turns with their shifts so that they could share childcare on their opposite shifts. They did what they had to do.
Gail and Suzanne have something in common with Rosie that I don’t. They also did what they had to do when they were single mothers. They worked harder than I will ever know, making sure that ends met, children were fed and clothed, and I remember them each having enough left over for some fun, too. They learned the hard way how to save not just for essentials. Perhaps this crucible also taught them how important it is to save time and money not for the finer things, but for the funner things in life.
I will always look up to both of them for staying so strong when they were on their own with their children. They could do it, and they did do it.
Rosie was a central theme in Gail’s donut shop when she had it. It signified the fact that she could have her own business, and she did. She could do it.
In honor of her mother, Gail’s daughter Lydia recently dressed as Rosie for some of her senior pictures:
In about a month, I will be dressed as Rosie for Halloween. All I need is the polka-dot headband—and Gail’s continued infusion of strength.
We are doing it.