I was at the Dublin premier of the documentary film The Economics of Happiness the other night. It was a huge success, with so many people showing up that most of us had to stand. Summary: Happiness levels in America peaked in the 1950s, and has been on the decline ever since, which directly correlates with an increase in wealth. In order to reverse this trend, the experts tell us to act locally in order to rebuild communities, which will in turn increase happiness. All good points. But what stuck with me most from the film was something said by Dr. Vandana Shiva. She believes that one way we can rebuild communities is by introducing a Grandmother University. I instantly loved the idea. No surprise there.
Those that know me are aware of my gravitation towards octogenarians. Here's a typical conversation between me and my sister Nadya:
Nadya: “What are you still doing up? It's 9pm. It's past your bed time.”
Me: “It's okay, I took a nap. I've finished baking. Now I'm working on knitting a new tea cosy. Tea cosies are back in, you know.”
Nadya: “You are such an old soul.”
Me: “Thank you!”
This is nothing new. During a 6 month stint back in Montreal while waiting out a new Irish visa, my mother was worried by my sudden near-obsession with this new group of friends from my Irish writing club and my Irish language club and my Irish film club (I like clubs. I was also going through Ireland withdrawal). Of course she was concerned! These strangers could be hooligans and try to coerce me into any kind of shenanigans! She agreed to come along to a screening of Omagh at the Montreal Irish Film Club. Her relief and confusion was expressed in a whispered sentence that is pure, classic mommy: “More like the Q-tip club..!” Granted, P.J., Donal, Anne-Marie, Claire and Niall were generationally advanced and our friendship was perhaps unusual but oh, the learning! They knew so much about so much!
****Before I go on I feel I have to break and stress that although I like baking and knitting and learning and getting a good night's sleep and driving within the speed limit, I am not a total dweeb. I have a reckless side too. Just ask me about the Beanie Baby debacle that had me and my high school boyfriend detained at U.S. Customs...Yeah.
Grandmother University! What a Utopian place that would be! When I got home I took to Google to find out if such a place actually existed. Not really, apart from some vague information from the aforementioned expert. But think about it, if there was such a place, would the grandmas be putting it on the interweb? Probably not.
Then in dawned on me. I have already been proudly attending Grandmother University since my Facebook status update was “bring on the jam making competition!” It was the day I joined the Irish Countrywomen's Association.
For those who are unfamiliar with the ICA, think Mall Walkers, but instead of active older people meeting in their tracksuits, women meet in their finery to socialize over various topics of interest like cookery or gardening or crafts. It isn't usual for someone my age to join the ICA. Translation: It isn't normal for someone my age to join the ICA. In fact, in the Milltown chapter to which I belong, the next youngest member is 33 years older than me. But I think I have the benefit of seeing the Association from an outsider's perspective. It's a social club where skills and interests are shared in good company and that you attend wearing your pearls. These women are fabulous. They know how to darn socks, make their own soap and birth heifers. Learning forgotten skills is on trend, yet the ICA may be too shrouded in its stereotype to be adopted by the type of crew that now attend Bitch n' Stich knitting circles because knitting is cool (did you hear that, Nadya?). That suits me perfectly - more seniors all for me. This month I got a text warning me to bring a ruler and scissors to the meeting. Crafts! This was going to be a good one... and I was right. We learned how to make gift boxes out of decorative paper. Awesome, right!? These little guys are perfect for handmade chocolates.
|Start with 2 squares of paper, one slightly larger than the other. You will need a ruler scissors and a pencil. Find the center of the paper by drawing an X from corner to corner|
|Fold 2 opposite corners into the center and crease the paper at the fold|
|Fold one again and crease the seam.|
|It' look like this|
|Unfold and repeat with the 2 other sides|
|Here are some of the ladies hard at work|
|You will now have a piece of paper with lovely fold lines|
|Cut along the 2 center-most fold lines on opposite sides of the paper, leaving a center square|
|Now back to folding...|
|And done! There's our bottom|
|And the pair together|
|Muriel traces a square of paper to line the box|
|I did the same|
|A lovely handmade gift box, for those times when you can't go to the shop and buy a gift box|