You know how attics are. They’re filled with junk, Christmas stuff and memories you can’t toss away.
The other day as I was digging through boxes — bound and determined to find a dress pattern from 15 years ago — I found a scrapbook from my high school FHA years.
Now, some of you, of course, know I am talking about a high school organization that stood for Future Homemakers of America. In these days of political correctness — I had to Google this to find it out — it is now called Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. Back in the old days, we had FBLA — Future Business Leaders of America — that covered the business side of things. It still exists.
I was the only one who joined FHA and FBLA which, in looking back, seems I was on the cutting edge of what was to come: Women who didn’t feel the need to choose one or the other.
That scrapbook shows me on various outings with FHA members as well as president of the group and smiling happily after being voted FFA’s "sweetheart." That stands for Future Farmers of America and that group has survived. Back then, FHA chose a sweetheart from the FFA roster and vice versa.
I am holding an engraved plaque, long gone somewhere, and am wearing a dress I designed and Mama sewed. It is peach-colored chiffon lined in matching silk with elbow-length billowing elastic sleeves and the waist is cinched by peach satin ribbon crisscrossed and wrapped from the bust line to the waist. I had recently seen "Romeo and Juliet" starring Olivia Hussey, so I designed the dress similar to one she wore in the movie.
Looking back, I see it was FHA that began to mold me for the career I have now. Of course, I learned to cook, sew, knit, crochet, clean house and, thanks to Mrs. Gloria Ray, I can fold a fitted sheet perfectly. Mrs. Trotter, always a tough taskmaster, oversaw my knitting and crocheting and showed me how to make bound buttonholes. Other than the bound buttonholes, I still use everything I learned from them.
At age 15, we stumbled into the discovery that I was comfortable as a public speaker. Since no one else would do it, Mrs. Trotter prevailed upon me to act as the emcee for our annual FHA/FFA Sweetheart banquet. Normally, she commanded, so when she asked earnestly, I couldn’t say no. In the school cafeteria in front of 300 members, parents and elected officials, I took the podium and followed the program. But somewhere near the middle of the evening, I went off script and told a funny story that happened while we were decorating for the event.
The crowd went crazy with laughter and I still remember the normally solemn senior politician of the county’s state legislative group laughing so hard he wiped tears from his eyes. For the next three years of high school, I hosted the Sweetheart banquet and filled the cafeteria with laughter.
It was the beginning of the road to where I am now: a storyteller.
I am grateful to FHA, FBLA, 4-H (and to FFA for making me its sweetheart) for the skills I learned and the leadership traits I acquired. It helped mold me into who I am. I never became a mother (except to Dixie Dew and the other loved animals on the Rondarosa) but I definitely consider myself a homemaker. Despite what I have achieved professionally, making a house into a loving home is one of my most cherished accomplishments.
In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with being called homemaker. In fact, I think it’s one of the most beautiful words in the American language.
God bless all the homemakers. For without them, we’d all just live in cold, unwelcoming houses.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including "There’s A Better Day A-Comin’." Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.