Thursday, March 08, 2007

I Like Wool Hats. Lots and lots of Wool Hats

I recently started following Ann Kroeker's blog. Immediately I was drawn to her excellent writing, sharp wit, and refreshing intellect. She's a thinker. And she makes me think. She also challenges me with her juxtupositions, insights and questions on topics that are not normal fodder in the "mommy circles." I like that.

Last week was Ann's 40th birthday and I decided to delurk to wish her a Happy Birthday. Well, one thing led to another and a few e-mails later we established that we had grown up near each other, we share a mutual friend and we probably squared off against each other on our high school tracks. Small world. Very small.

I had initially commented that I liked her blog because her writing "evokes a midwestern charm and perspective that I miss." Well, that set Ann off on a journey to discover if she "should be aiming for a higher level of sophistication, or tickled that my writing feels like a safe little country cottage, glowing and warm from a bright fire crackling in the fireplace?"

It's made me think a lot also. What was it about her writing that made me feel so welcomed and comfortable? And then I read this quote by Washington Irving and Ann's name immediately came to mind.

"There is an emanation
from the heart in genuine hospitality
which cannot be described
but is immediately felt,
and puts the stranger at once at his ease."

Of course! It's her hospitality that is so evident in her writing. I've always believed that midwesterners have this incredible gift for hospitality. And I can prove it.

The summer after my freshman year in college I took my New York City roommate back to Indiana for a week’s vacation. She had culture shock on a number of levels, but the aspect that she commented on the most was the hospitality of the people.

Wherever we went, people would take a genuine interest in her and within minutes they were talking like old friends. She was most impressed with how we would drop in at someone’s house unannounced and, regardless of the time of day, people would joyfully invite us in, put out some lemonade and visit. If we happened to drop in around mealtime, chairs would be added to the table.

That type of hospitality is common where I grew up. Sadly, it's somewhat unique in most other places---especially the east. People are more guarded. More cautious. More calculated in how they extend hospitality. And, as a result, hospitality often feels like shaking a hand that is clad in a long, starched white glove than the hearty embrace and squeeze from an old friend.

So, Ann, please don't ever trade in your wool hat and cornbread for a chic garden hat and petit fours. I'm quite fond of wool. In fact, we need more wool hats in this world.

So what are you? Are you a long, starched white glove? Or are you a sensible wool hat?


Judy said...

The midwestern hospitality you described sounds a lot like the southern hospitality I grew up with. :-) Only we normally had iced tea instead of lemonade (of course, lemonade is good too). :-) I don't know that I'm like a wool cap (sounds REAL uncomfortable in this weather) but I'm definitely not a long white glove either (unless the situation calls for it)

Tracy W said...

I hope I am the warm wool cap - but for my family and my home, it's more like a big pot of simmering soup. And a quick knock and walk-in at the back door to follow the smells. I love this post, and will be adding it to the other one you shared this week, when I talk to my gals about "Carrying Your Hospitality With You," for our March topic! Thanks for this beautiful post, for the lovely comments earlier and for letting me share your thoughts.

TCC said...

I grew up around white starchy gloves but I would say that my parents wore cotton hats - not as itchy as wool. I think I am a combination of sorts; I would never dream of dropping in on someone unannounced but I enjoy opening up my home to others. My husbands family definitely wore the white gloves...he's been warming up to the cotton hat.

Irritable Mother said...

Hi "Mom"!
I love reading Ann's blog, too, and agree with your evaluation of her thinking and writing. I also have her book, "The Contemplative Mom." It's great!
I came over to your blog because Ann mentioned this post. I've been poking around a bit and like the things you're writing.
In answer to your question, I am a midwestern girl - wool hats for me!

Lynn Hopper said...

Don't tell Annie I ratted her out, but the irony of all this is that Annie--as with most of our family--is allergic to wool!!!
But the hospitality is real!
Ann's Mom

Ann Kroeker said...

I'm late to this discussion, but wanted to let you know that I couldn't help but write another post in response to this one.

Then I get here and see that my *mom* has been by for a visit!

And the funny thing is: I was going to admit the very same thing she wrote--that I'm allergic to wool.

So you can keep all that literal wool, but I still love the analogy. :)