Yes, it only takes a moment to get lost in the past. While I was wrapping a birthday gift for my oldest friend, Barb, I had a nostalgic glimpse of our long-gone youthful teaching days. We were sitting in our smoky, foggy staffroom at lunchtime.
Some of the teachers in our all-female staff were the grand old dames. As well as teaching large grades of the future of the Catholic Church, these mature gals were the mothers of their own broods of their own.
One particular sunny lunchtime, one of these doughty, worthy women, Michelle, arrived for her cuppa and sandwich. She was busting her boilers over a conflict with a head honcho nun. This was all concerning a dispute about a ‘recalcitrant learner’. (Noble book, a laugh a minute). My dear old pal sat down in a huff, ate her lunch, and did not miss a biscuit. She could really make coffee fun.
The instant the nuns entered, for their neat and sweet tuna salads, Michelle launched into the secret women’s business of one of her many childbirth experiences. Her last sprog had been born in breech birth position. Everyone has their strengths, Michelle’s was to tell her gruesome tales of the labour room, with the full graphic and vivid vocabulary of a well- educated femme. Every detail was described. Barb, not being inclined to reproduce, went off for a walk, ‘to enjoy some fresh, Spring air’.
The attending nuns, nibbling away, turned as chartreuse as their lettuce leaves. After all, they had chosen their religious vocation so they would not have these painful memories of the pangs of bearing children.
“Must get on,” said the head honcho nun.
They all retreated from the staffroom and all this secret women’s business. Old Michelle said, “Good, that’s got rid of them!” Gee, we laughed. She still continued teaching her recalcitrant learners, and so did we. The instant a woman starts teaching, she is labelled a ‘fat old cow’. That is part of our job description. We all quickly learnt to teach such dear scholars not to be rude to teachers.
Years later, in my tutoring pathway, I was assisting a young Muslim lady, with her own bunch of little Australians. She and her family came here to live in peace, no bombs for breakfast. In one email, my student was describing a prayer meeting for women of her faith. After they had all read and studied their holy word, the gals opened their packets of biscuits and cake containers. Making coffee fun, they too shared their most painful childbirth stories. They enjoyed these times of the secret women’s business in a women only supportive way, good environment.
This insight caused me to examine some of the stereotypes we Australians can all be fed. My student wears a gold and green hijab, with an Australian flag on her shoulder bag. You might say we are all Aussie sisters under the skin. We are taking our part in shaping the future, despite any differences in our backgrounds or beliefs. Barb will visit for coffee, a gift, in our usual manner. We can all reminisce, getting lost in the nostalgia of a different era. History turns a page, now we are all the seniors. The players of the past gave us some great memories and good laughs. Here’s to making coffee fun, chick style! Women only, of course.