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Wishing mothers and nurturers a happy day

I was washing dishes the other evening when I thought about her.

Mrs. Marie Della Penna was my home economics teacher when I was an eighth-grader at Jefferson Union High School.

I seem to remember her offering advice in a class once about the best way to wash a dish with dried scrambled egg residue in it. Do it this way, not that way. Otherwise, you complicate the task at hand, was her instruction.

Now Better Half will argue that I didn’t pay much attention in this class, even after I gloat that I won the most improved home economics student award, presented much to my surprise at an end-of-the-year honors assembly.

I’m still inclined to think there was an error in that announcement, and Better Half will joke that I must have finally figured out how to boil water or somehow managed to climb up the ranks from an awfully bad home ec student to just a terrible one.

Accolades aside — warranted or not — home economics was one of those classes where we learned practical things, including how to make something as simple as biscuits from scratch, not a tube.

That I considered when I came across a list of 40 old-fashioned skills that kids need to know. Who the author of this compilation is I don’t know, but I think I saw this on Facebook as one of those shared posts.

How to make scrambled eggs was on this list. So was how to sew on a button; how to have good table manners; how to write a thank-you note; how to do laundry; how to iron a shirt; how to converse with an elder; how to put air in a bike tire; how to fix something; how to take a message (who called when and what’s their number, not, I don’t know — they said they’d call back!); how to set the table; how to wait and save for something; how to balance a checkbook; and how to introduce yourself.

Often the practical lessons we learn come courtesy of our mothers, of course, and we certainly pay tribute to them today whether they are in our social distancing midst, as close as a phone call away or in our memories now only.

But these basic learning experiences often come from other females in our lives, too, not necessarily our mothers, but women who have a nurturing spirit.

They can be older sisters with protective wings around a baby sister. Tweet tweet.

From an aunt who had no children but mothered her nieces and nephews just the same.

Maybe a neighbor nearby who mixed encouragement, experience and education to your advantage.

And teachers — Marie Della Penna and a host of others.

I remember how Edith McLaughlin, a grade school teacher of mine from Richmond Elementary School days, recruited me as a reluctant sixth-grader to play the piano for a group she belonged to.

I was the entertainment for this gathering that I recall being held at the YWCA of Steubenville.

As scared as I was and as poorly as I probably played, she taught me an old-fashioned skill worth retaining — honor your commitments.

That includes getting the scrambled egg dish clean and wishing all mothers and nurturing females in our lives a Happy Mother’s Day.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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