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February 22, 2007

After the Revolution

After the Revolution

by Nancy

Assuming the apocalypse has come and gone, civilization is in ruins, law means nothing and families do anything to stay alive, what will your contribution be?

This is a parlor game at my house. (Now you know: Writers are not made by playing Candyland.) This game is a hoot because it boils down all family members to their most useful and useless parts.  And it saves oodles of dough on therapy.

At Thanksgiving dinner one year, we howled with laughter over the contributions various family members could contribute to our mutual survival After the Revolution. My mother--a former tennis pro and somewhat of an historian--volunteered to earn her keep by scrubbing floors. My aunt Nancy, a psychoanalyst and child development expert, said she'd look after the children. My sister despaired until she realized she had one great talent--shopping--which suited her perfectly for standing in bread lines. I worried that I might be reduced to sweating over a hot stove (at the time my expertise in feeding casts of thousands at cocktail parties was much in demand) until I realized that my passion for growing perennial flowers could probably translate into harvesting vegetables as long as people liked zucchini a lot. 

My husband said he'd herd sheep.

After the Revolution (patent pending) germinated from my grandmother's most high praise of any female.  After meeting someone who met with her approval, she would say, "Now, there's a capable woman!"                       

My grandmother was no slouch herself. She raised five daughters during the Depression and WWII. She grew, canned, cooked and served three square meals a day. She ran a successful small business, too--a jewelry store, which surely tested her powers of salesmanship in that era. She ran a bridge club, the women's sewing circle, the Eastern Star, a girl scout troop, church activities--all the stuff of small town life.  She had grown up on a farm (no electricity or running water) four miles from town via a footpath.

Growing up with such a formidable mother, my mother and her four sisters came up with a measure of female capability they called The Bossy Lady contest. The sisters aspired to be not just capable, but wanted to recognize who was the most capable of them all.  (You know about sibling rivalry, right?)  To make the contest civilized, they created specific qualities a truly capable woman should possess.  Some of the qualities included:

1.  Skills.  Like fixing tractors, reading a topo map, catching trout, making jelly, changing a tire, pitching a tent.

2.  Appropriate emergency behavior.  If the kitchen curtains catch fire, do you run screaming into the yard? Do you call 911? Or do you calmly put out the flames yourself? (My mother won this part of the contest because she had put out numerous fires---including one in her college dormitory---with a garden hose.)

3.  The ability to quell an unruly crowd (small children, drunken frat boys, overly enthusiastic football fans, etc) with a single glance.  Bill Cosby claims he hired Phylicia Rashad to play his TV wife purely because she could deliver The Look. 

4.  The aura of authority. This quality is tricky to describe, but I bet you know it when you see it.  Some people have a certain bearing, a powerful manner, the unspoken air of command. A mob will turn to this person in a crisis. The added complication is that this quality must not be assumed by force.  It must be naturally exuded.

There were other, carefully negotiated and worded characteristics established for the Bossy lady contest, but you get the drift. Maybe you can suggest more. The competitors agreed to meet at the family summer house on a Canadian lake, and the contest took place on Shakespearean night with thunder and lightning and so much hysterical laughter that we honestly feared Aunt Martha might suffer a stroke on the spot.

The winner was Mary Jane, a forensic psychologist, practising therapist and college professor by day.  She was deemed the most capable woman, The Bossy Lady.

Years later, my girlfriends and I (all young mothers at the time) took the contest and updated it a bit.  We decided "bossy" wasn't a word we liked, nor was it a word that sufficiently communicated the "capable" component of the women we aspired to be. The result, we decided, was a Thunder Woman--a powerful, intelligent, independent, capable woman with some feminine qualities, too, but not enough to weaken her or make her ridiculous.

Paris Hilton need not apply.

Because Aunt Martha has been gone a few years, and Mary Jane passed away three weeks ago (and Aunt Nancy's in the midst of a health scare) the younger generation has been sneaking furtive--and yes, competitive--glances at each other. Who among is is the new Bossy Lady?

Or are we all Thunder Women thanks to those who came before us?

Anyway, that's how we play After the Revolution.  What's your skill?

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Comments

My skill...?
Letting Bossy Women think she is in charge, until Thunder Women arrives....

Dave, you are too funny. And smart.

Skills? I can sew. I can twirl a baton. Not, however, at the same time.

Dave, you are too funny. And smart.

Skills? I can sew. I can twirl a baton. Not, unfortunately, at the same time.

Wow, Nancy - your family is a lot more fun than mine.

Hmm. My contribution. I have 3 dogs, so does that make me involved with the livestock somehow?

My cousin refers to her mom (who has all the qualities to compete in the Bossy Lady competition)as the Cruise Director!

Hmmm, I'll have to ponder on what skills I could offer....

Hey, a new skill! I can double post!

I can trap, kill, skin, and dismember mammals up to the size of rabbits/hares. (I can also prepare museum specimens of the remains, but that's probably less useful.) I can teach basic hand-to-hand self-defense. I can shovel horse poop with the best of them. And, when I was working repertory theatre in college (as a techie), I discovered a skill I think I got from both my parents: I am a pretty decent problem-solver, along the lines of "Oh, we need an X and don't have one -- how about we take a piece of Y, attach it to Z, and bend it like this . . ." It came in very handy building sets and, when I was in graduate school, designing and building various experimental devices.

My Mom had The Look in spades, as did my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Theseus. I'm still working on it . . .

Ohh - good game. We're going to play that the next time my sisters and I get together.

I'm not sure what kind of skills I'd have in the wild. I don't camp.

As a matter of fact, the joke in my family is that our idea of a bad hotel is one without macadamia nuts in the honor bar..

I want to be wherever Kerry is After the Revolution! I can cook whatever she hunts...assuming someone knows where the fire-starter is :o) (Flint anyone?)and I'm not too shabby at gardening either. I can be very patient, so standing in line might work for me too. Oh...and I can use a hammer and nails, and a shovel in case we need to dig a pit or something.

I can make Rice Krispies Treats.

Sign me up for laundry, esp. ironing, if iron is available. And pulling ticks off dogs.

Josh, be careful with that offer. Last swim season, I made so many batches of Rice Krispy Treats to sell at the snack bar, I ended up with tennis elbow. I had to take steroids, which made me want to eat all of the Rice Krispy treats. You do not need that kind of vicious cycle After The Revolution.

I'm just thinking about your health.

Oh, I can cook, red-up and probably keep some optimism going.
Harley, IRON...........during one warm spring week-end in my former life, when Joshus Perper (yes, that one)had ordered me to jail for not identifying a black 82 year old dead rape victim by name.........all I could think about was I hope they don't make me iron when I'm in the county jail!
Mary Alice

Great game, Nancy!!!

opps..Joshua Perper's the name......mag

After The Revolution, my contribution will be to do as I am told. My mother was a high school English teacher for ten years before I was born, and she had *THE LOOK* honed to a fine science. (A running joke was Mom's Eyes, Dirty Harry's Magnum, same thing.) Add in being married to my father, and raising two boys, she had it down. So, I was trained early and trained well....

I'm mechanical, so I guess I can try and keep the machinery running.

Mary Alice, if we are ever in the slammer together, I will do all of your ironing. Also, I can red-up the house, any house, even the Big House, in record time, but only if my mother-in-law is on her way. She's from Pittsburgh, and man, does she have The Look.

My mother didn't need The Look. She had The Finger (index, not middle). When she leveled that deadly digit at you - all you could do was pray for mercy.
After the Revolution I can run a farm, tend a garden and defend said garden from all groundhogs, foreign and domestic. I make great homemade wine, and my pickels have won local prizes. Oh, and I think I can still field-strip an M16.

She probably doesn't even know this, but Ramona also possesses the skill of making me spew cracker crumbs all over my keyboard.

I want to be on Josh's and J Renee's team: M16's, homemade wine, and Rice Krispy Treats -- what a combo!

Aw, shucks, Kerry.

Hey, about that trapping, killing, skinning or dismembering--do you do teenage boys?

We recently went camping at a cabin with no water or electricity, so I can claim the following skills with some confidence: cooking on a camp stove, drawing water from the river, boiling said water and washing dishes in it, washing myself and kids in it, going in the outhouse without complaining.

This is only for one night, right?

Well, I could hunt anything that Kerry needs to skin as I am a very good shot and used to hunting (with my dad). I could fish as well. But apparently my primary talent is to prevent everyone from annoying everyone else. My two grown sons both moved to Colorado in October, and coincidentally, within 10 miles of each other. They are 1400 miles from me and I am *still* getting the phone calls about me making the other one stop from doing whatever annoying thing is bugging the caller. 1400 freaking miles, and I'm getting the 20-year-old version of "Mommmm, he's touching my stuff!" grrr.

I love this. My husband is trying to get a continual email going about what it takes to make a fully functional human being! I've always wondered/worried how many of those things I won't know how to do!

At some point in my teen years, I looked at how much I loved reading psychological theories and how I was pretty good at listening to other people's problems and helping out by talking, and I seriously considered becoming a psychologist. Then, rightly so for me, I decided that the job would drive me crazy--because I wouldn't be able to detach from it.

BUT...if we're talking short-term post-revolutionary jobs; as in--it's crisis time, but we'll all be okay and move on in a few months, okay, sign me up for helping with inter-personal communications and night-time venting.

Otherwise, if it's longterm, I'll just use those skill the same way I'm using them now--to write fiction and, hopefully, entertain! If everyone promises to clap and praise, I'll read nightly around the campfire--the one someone else knows how to build!

Good contributions, all! Especially the teenage boy skinning.--Love that one!

I spent the day in a hospital waiting room, which I hope will not be a needed skill After the Revolution.

We don't have any builders among us? What will we do for shelter?

My mother reminds me she can do body work on cars, by the way. Should we have gasoline to run them After the Revolution.

Michele said: ... washing myself and kids in it, going in the outhouse without complaining.

Props to you, Michele. MY idea of "roughing it" these days is a Ritz Carlton without a Bollinger '68 available....

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