The Many Faces of Mom: Entertaining Her Children and Friends
She doodled or sketched women’s faces. For a Mennonite deacon’s and farmer’s wife, kind of an unusual pastime and especially because of this: the faces looked like fashion models, usually because they had lots of make up, full lips, glorious eyes, long skinny necks, and frequently sported fancy necklaces or necklines. They also looked like models on a Simplicity or McCall’s pattern if you have sewn your own clothing. My momma was good at drawing, sewing and designing variations on her sewing patterns, and making us laugh.
She would sketch while waiting at the doctor’s office, or at the desk writing letters, or making a list for the grocery store, or planning a menu if company was coming—her lists often had one or more drawings on them. And, we would beg her to draw faces to entertain us while we were in church, on the bulletin. Gasp! The deacon’s wife! (For more on the proper and traditional role of a deacon’s wife in some Mennonites’ tradition, follow my link but scroll down to “Father’s Ordination.”)
I recently begged Mom to draw some faces and send them by mail so I could share them here. She said she was rusty and they ended up not proportioned as well as she would have liked, but you get the idea. In the letter Mom sent with the sketches she wrote, “The more I make the uglier they get.” I think she only sent me the best ones, for they aren’t bad!
When we were kids most of her sketches ended up in the trash can, but in her letter to me, she noted that the artistic bent came from her father Ivan Stauffer’s side of the family. In fact, her mother, may she rest in peace, would get mad at Mom and scold her for drawing when she was supposed to be doing other things such as chores. Of course. That is what mothers do, right?
Her classmates would also beg her to draw the lady pictures. “Why my classmates wanted them so bad, I don’t know.” She got A’s and an “A+ once” in art. She also drew flowers, especially roses, by studying an actual rose. She had a set of pastel chalks with which she drew flowers but, “too bad I didn’t keep my pastels when we moved. They were what I liked best.”
Her father Ivan (who I never knew; he was killed in a car accident the year I was born) would draw cartoons for them on the asbestos pipes in their basement. As she wrote in her letter, that’s poisonous now. She’s 92 and her mother lived to be 95, so…. (No lawsuit needed there, but I’m not making light of the dangers of asbestos.)
Her father’s cartoons were knock offs of an old comic strip known as Jiggs and Maggie, begun about a hundred years ago. You can see a sample here. Jiggs and Maggie were Irish who had come to America and won a lottery or something; as with most comics, their antics are fun and silly but apparently the deeper layer dealt with immigration, ethnicity, and classism. Still so current.
Mother’s sister, Florence, was a bonafide artist whose work was shown over northern Indiana winning frequent prizes and some acclaim, which I wrote about here.
Thank you, Mother, for entertaining me once again and hundreds of readers who may happen by this blog post.
Do you doodle? Where, when and why?
Or do you enjoy coloring? With your children or grandchildren, or in an “adult” coloring book?
Here are links to two coloring books you might enjoy. I wrote the quilt descriptions in this one for Herald Press: Beloved Amish & Mennonite Quilts. Available now.