Christine here. Somehow, even as a child, I knew my parents were not cool. How is it that children suss out these things, before any real experience of the world? My Aunt Mary was cool, and she was even a mother, but my own mother was not. As a mother myself, my own children have clearly figured out that I am not cool: I think they knew it from birth.

When I was a child, coolness had something to do with wearing a lot of mascara, having long straight hair, and smoking. It had something to do with doing daring things that were against the rules.

The best example of coolness in my neighborhood was my babysitter, Ruthie. She was 13 when I was 8. She had long, long, chestnut brown hair that she would lay her head down on the ironing board to have her sister straighten by ironing it between layers of paper, or else wear in very large curlers bobby-pinned onto her head. She wore baby blue eye shadow. She had 45’s that she would bring over by Bobbie Sherman (Julie, Julie, Julie Do You Love Me) and his ilk to play on my parents’ record player when she was babysitting. She had started wearing a bra and showed me the little lace edging and the “front-loader” hook mechanism (makes it easier for boys to unhook).

We would watch “Here Come the Brides” together and sing every word of the theme song. Every time Bobbie Sherman came onto the TV, we would sigh about how gorgeous he was. (I went along with it but always thought David Soul was a little cuter).

I was in love with Ruthie. She was gorgeous, she was a princess, she was cool. She was everything I wanted to be. Unfortunately, her own coolness only served to highlight how painfully uncool I was. Ruthie was in the 4th section (out of ten) for her grade at school, and I was in the first. She made it clear that only unattractive eggheads were in section one. She had boyfriends by the dozen, and was always attracted to the next one as soon as she had secured the first. (I was off at college before I would even have my first kiss.) She would “sneak out” at night to hang out and gaze at boys and smoke at the post office/gas station/soda and hoagie ship, which was what passed for a downtown where we lived in rural Pennsylvania. She wore bell-bottoms, and I wore cousin Eileen’s hand-me-downs from 10 years ago, or clothing that Mom sewed me: pretty dresses, but not… cool.

RuthieIn the midst of this great yawning disparity, we had one thing in common: we crocheted. Remember those granny-square vests that everyone wore back then? They were the height of teenage fashion and I longed for one. We would sit on the floor together in front of the TV, yelling at the dog to keep away from the travelling balls of yarn, and crochet the vests that would one day soon make us beautiful and fashionable. This plan worked for Ruthie, the tight little vest outlining her figure. As a 9 or 10 year old at that time, it outlined… nothing. (Still waiting).

Ruthie was not the one who taught me how to crochet; my mother did that. But, Ruthie was the one who made it cool and fun. In some respects, I credit her with the spark of passionate interest in all of the creative crafts that I have enjoyed through my life: crochet, knitting, quilting, braiding, embroidery, and sewing. Mom taught me the mechanics, but Ruthie gave me the dream of being fashionable with those crafts. Remember when multiply-patched jeans were the rage? Ruthie had me help her with fancy embroidery stitches at the edges of the patches. I was able to help her, when she was the one who had inspired me! As a kid, I don’t think I was ever so proud of myself as I was at that moment.

I still will never be as cool as Ruthie was, and I’m sure she’s completely forgotten me, as we often forget the people around us who are younger and less important. Boyfriends and TV stars filled Ruthie’s head, not neighborhood children with whom she spent the occasional evening babysitting. But I nod my head to Ruthie anyway, and I hope she still gets some satisfaction with crocheting an afghan or knitting a baby sweater for a grandchild, while I obsess about rug braiding.

8 thoughts on “Ruthie

  1. This is a wonderfully written, fun piece that just made me smile. So nice to know that a creative spirit can be passed on. And, it could be that you are not as “un-cool” to those of us who know you as you think you are!

    On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 12:51 PM, the braiding post wrote:

    > ccmangesdetobias posted: “Christine here. Somehow, even as a child, I knew > my parents were not cool. How is it that children suss out these things, > before any real experience of the world? My Aunt Mary was cool, and she was > even a mother, but my own mother was not. As a mother mys” >

  2. I love reading your stories Christine! Isn’t it funny what and who we consider “cool” when we are young? I was not one of the cool kids, but that’s okay, my grandkids think I am!

  3. Hi Dianne. This piece is kind of sad as far as your mom was portrayed, but she did teach you crocheting and sewing and probably did her best with what knew, had time for, and availability. The “glam” part of style and looks seems to fad quickly over time as teenagers who mature to adulthood, and middle adulthood find out. Inspiration for beauty from Ruthie was motivating (liked the patched jeans part), however it would be interesting to know where Ruthie is today. Coolness to attract more and more boyfriends doesn’t set for a stable home. Maybe she wised up as most of us did out of that era. Nevertheless, I too hope she continued on with the crocheting and giving to others as you have done.

    • Dianne here: HI Patsy! Christine is the one who wrote the story about Ruthie and crocheting…..she is the talented writer who keeps us all interested in her life adventures! I have met her mom and know the two of them still quilt and craft together so all is well there! Take care.

      • Oops, please excuse the mix-up. Yes, that Christine and mother still craft today is neat. Children often don’t recognize the good model of their parents until much later. I am one of those.

  4. If you braid one of those granny square vests, I’ll be the first to say how COOL you are!!!

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