Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Land of Giant Kitchen Things

Leafing through old cookbooks and vintage ephemera is one of my favorite ways to while away an afternoon. In particular, I love the illustrations and how they depict the fashions and housewares of an era as well as the style of book designers at the time.

A few months ago I was given a cache of old promotional cookbooks via my local Buy Nothing website and am still savoring them because I'm not quite ready to send them on their way to the next person fond of vintage things. There's always some new gem to discover in them!

This time, I noticed an inordinate fondness for Outsized Kitchen Appliances and Other Objects. Check it out:

It's 1947, and a phalanx of women stand before a behemoth of a Sunbeam Mixmaster. The One Mixmaster to rule them all! According to a price list in this promotional booklet, a Mixmaster with juicier will set you back $37.50. 

Accessories include many items that modern cooks might buy for today's mixers as well as a few I've never seen advertised for my Kitchen-Aid, such as a bean slicer, a pea sheller, and a butter churner.  And the Mixmaster, according to this booklet, attempts tasks I'd never have thought of using a mixer for: polishing and buffing silverware and sharpening knives.

The recipes include many perfectly decent-sounding meals as well as a few oddities, such as Macaroni Creole Loaf and one of those midcentury mainstrays, the Carrot Gelatin Salad.

Just think of the gigantic turkey you could roast in the monumental 1949 Montag! Why, it's so enormous, this little lady will need an extension ladder to reach the top and another one to reach the controls. I think this range is the real explanation behind the extinction of the Elephant Bird. 

The price of $289.75 shows that it was certainly a big investment at the time. You can get a perfectly decent range used at that price today. Granted, it won't be the size of a house like this one, but you'll probably be able to actually get it into your kitchen. No recipes for you--this was from a tattered bit of newspaper stuck in one of the booklets.

No date on this sales brochure, but it appears to be from the early 1950s, and the Mixmaster has certainly shrunk in size, though it is certainly ginormous compared to the puny household mixers of today. It's at least half the height of this woman, and she appears to be using it as a washing machine for bedsheets and laughing wickedly about it.

No recipes in the brochure, but you can flip through its pages and marvel at ordering a mixer in pink, yellow, turqoise, white, or chrome; buying a toaster that boasts "extra-high toast lift"; and delight in owning a hand mixer with "exclusive  thumb-tip beater ejector."

Appliances weren't the only supersized things in olden times. You could also catch fish that would feed a family for a year. But you probably had to buy a freezer the size of a city block to contain it.

It's 1963 now, baby, and we've got some groovy recipes for you in this Fleischmann's Yeast and Gold Medal Flour booklet. Why, you can make loaves of bread the size of your torso! (Together with the piscine wonder in the previous image, it's a veritable miracle of loaves and fishes.) 

In keeping with the pop psychology of the times, the breads in this booklet are no ordinary breads--they're Ego Batter Breads. They can't possibly go wrong! I'm OK, you're OK, the bread's OK! But to keep up that spirit of rebellion, you can always flip to the middle and make a Riot of Rolls, and then fast-forward to the end to whip up a batch of Gossipy Sweet Buns.

OK, there is nothing peculiarly outsized on this booklet's cover, but I do think the title is wrong. I don't think it's at all clever to pour a stream of spices into the food you're mixing up without watching what you're doing. This book should be called "How Not to Use Spices."

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Farewell, Country Village

It was only 36 years old, but it felt like a step back in time to a slower, more connected world (actually physically connected, not just Internet-connected).

Country Village in Bothell, an assemblage of little shops and restaurants stitched together by meandering trails, will soon be bulldozed to make way for yet another drab collection of ticky tacky boxes.

This quirky little place was constructed by one family starting in 1981. I first visited in the early 1990s when I worked in Bothell, and my co-workers and I dropped in for lunch and Christmas shopping. 

In the following years I'd visit with my daughter, who loved riding the little train and watching the chickens and ducks roaming the grounds. 

My daughter grew up, as daughters tend to do. By and by, I sat by the pond with my mother during her final summer, watching children play on the big pirate ship.

But the wrecking ball will soon take a swing at it all, and only memories will remain. 

I visited Country Village during its last weekend to snap a few pictures, stroll the grounds, and reminisce. 

It was filled with other visitors who'd come to pay their respects, many of whom had played there as children themselves. 

A shopkeeper told me that the day before, he met people who'd flown in from out of state to say good-bye. Many tears were shed.


On this beautiful sunny Saturday, children dashed from playground to playground. A gaggle of teenage girls crowded into the crow's nest of the pirate ship for a photo, no doubt recreating a scene from their childhood.


Groups waited patiently  to take pictures in front of the cart-horse statue.


And, of course, the giant chicken.


I asked one shopkeeper if there was any chance that the developer was going to keep any of the beautiful trees or quaint features or the 1901 farmhouse. 

The shopkeeper sighed and just extended his arm to indicate the condos already built in an area sold several years ago that used to be a pasture. I sighed, too, when I saw the gray monoliths.

Yes, I know people need places to live, but surely it's possible to build housing without destroying everything that's quirky, fun, beloved, or interesting about a place and replacing it with cookie-cutter housing and the same chain stores over and over again. 

Driving around the area nowadays, it's sometimes hard to know what community I'm in because they all look alike--a series of mall parking lots connected by roadways, all boasting the same stores.

Country Village provided a nice "third place,"  where people can gather other than in homes or  workplaces: a town square in New England, a pub in Ireland, a coffee shop where everybody isn't wearing earplugs and riveted to a screen. 


I recall a lovely coffee shop in Seattle that closed up due to a rent increase in a neighborhood I once lived in. 

When I told the barista that I was sorry to see her shop go, the woman in line behind me huffed and puffed. She pontificated about how stupid it was to be sorry about things leaving because "progress must go on"! 

Progress? 

Just how the disappearance of a nice coffee shop that had only been in place for three years (only to be replaced by a useful but dull office that could've been located anywhere) was equivalent to "progress" was beyond me.

(Not to mention it had won an award for Most Beautiful Bathroom in some local newspaper survey. Believe me, it deserved landmark status!)

I once heard someone blandly say this phrase back on Long Island, where I grew up, to talk about an ugly building that was constructed smack-dab in the center of a pretty park view. 

"Congress must go on," she said flatly (and not ironically), even though she'd just been shaking her head in dismay about the structure.
Which just goes to show how stifling pat sayings can be--so shallow they're not even repeated correctly.
Sure, Country Village had its share of twee shops, and its demise isn't on a par with the societal problems dominating our headlines today. 

But it was a nice little sparrow, and now it has fallen, and I shall miss it. 

(How's that song go?)

"Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same."
               --Malvina Reynolds

Boxcar that houses a shop

Run, chicken run

A tree I wish they'd save. Maybe there's hope as it is by a pond.

Workings of a windmill

It was fun to take a child on a walk around the place to look for details like this.

This is next to another sign that says nothing happened here in 1897. 

This was a fun store, like an old country shop that had everything you needed and then some.

Seriously the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever eaten. The shop, Doll House Baked Goods, will still be open throughout April (check their website for more info as well as online orders: http://www.dollhousebakedgoods.com/ but they don't have a new storefront yet. Sadly, up here in Woodinville people would love a good bakery and coffee shop, but the rents are too high for sweet places like this one or the lovely tea shop that is also shutting down due to Country Village's closure.
Speaking of tea shops...I had hoped to enjoy a final cup of tea at the tea shop, naively thinking it'd still be in operation despite the imminent closure. It wasn't. Instead, they were selling off their wares. So I rescued this chicken tureen. Because our home was seriously lacking a chicken tureen.
You're welcome. Wish we could.







Monday, January 21, 2019

Dr. R.V. Pierce, Quack Extraordinaire

Dr. Quack, himself.
"Every family needs a common sense medical adviser," lectures the opening line of Dr. R.V. Pierce's 1895 edition of his life's work, which is called, conveniently, The People's Common Sense Medical Adviser.

Pierce goes on to claim that his book has been so popular, "the original electrotype plates from which it has heretofore been printed, have been completely worn out."

A pity this wasn't perceived as an omen, because it didn't stop subsequent printings nor the production of a profusion of pellets, palliatives, and nostrums that this nineteenth-century version of a social media influencer peddled to desperate cases.

I unearthed a copy of this book as I nosed about in  a local thrift store. I knew nothing about the man who would become known as "The Prince of Quacks," but I knew it would be ghoulish fun to peruse an old medical book. I remember spending many an hour as a kid reading the ancient medical book my mom had  on her bookshelf, a book so old that it predated the polio vaccine and abundantly fueled my hypochondriacal tendencies.

(Poor Mom, I don't know how often she had to convince me that the pain in my neck was not an early sign of infantile paralysis.)

"Dr. Pierce, I'm actually not delighted with
that tonic you sent me, nor, come to think of it,
am I at all pleased with  my hairdresser."
After turning the Medical Adviser's pages in stunned fascination, I decided to find out more about this guy.

Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce (1840-1914) obtained his medical degree from an institute called the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati. Eclectical medicine was rooted in herbal medicine.

(Its philosophy was formalized by a man named Wooster Beach, which I mention only because I like to say "Wooster Beach." Mr. Beach's first medical institute, by the way, was shut down because locals were peeved that the staff indulged in grave-robbing to obtain cadavars for dissection.)

Despite the book's proclaimed assurance of its reliability as a medical adviser, anybody suffering from a rash or other ailment would be dead by the time they found some practical, common-sense information, as it's mainly stuffed way in the back of the book after reams of testimonials, advertising, descriptions of fatal maladies, and lectures on the bees that buzzed in Dr. Pierce's particular bonnet (most of which had to do with reproduction, sexuality, hygiene, moral behavior, and hateful notions about superior races).

You'll have to wait until page 878, for example, to find out what to do if somebody in the household has a bad cough.

Testimonials abound because Dr. Pierce was that quintessentially American late-1900s figure, the snake-oil salesman who traded in mysterious medicines. Pierce founded an Invalids' Hotel in Buffalo, NY, and dispensed an array of tinctures and potions that supposedly cured a multitude of afflictions.

Among his many concoctions were "Dr. Pierce's Pleasant Purgative Pellets," "Dr. Pierce's Anuric Tablets," "Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery," "Dr. Pierce's Nasal Douche,"and "Dr. Pierce's Favorite Prescription." The latter was an elixir he marketed "for Weak Women" to relieve them of "female illnesses."


The testimonials feature grim black-and-white portraits of severe-looking women, startled children, and bewhiskered men, many of whom sing the praises of Dr. Pierce and his concoctions. (Others rave about cures experienced at his hospital after surgery, which might actually be true--certainly, having a 62-pound tumor removed, as one woman attested, must surely have been a great relief.)

"Ten or twelve years ago I had a combination of diseases. Our family physician said I was bloodless and there was no hopes of my recovering," moans Mrs. Addie R. Knight of North Carolina. (Of course, if she truly were bloodless, that physician was spot-on.)

Another long-distance patient, a C. M. Niles of Maine, wrote to Dr. Pierce after years of declining health and (without ever having been examined by Dr. Pierce) was informed that he suffered from "indigestion, dyspepsia, catarrh, and spinal affection"--and that, of course, Dr. Pierce could cure him.

Not surprisingly, Pierce inveighed mightily against the establishment of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. This legislation included the requirement that active ingredients in medications be listed on labels and standards of purity be maintained. No doubt Pierce had to partake of many handfuls of Pleasant Purgative Pellets at this prospect.


Just what was in Pierce's  Golden Medical Discovery and other products? It was alleged that various elixirs contained opium, alcohol, and digitalis, but the printed label for the Golden  Medical Discovery listed bloodroot, Oregon grape root, stone root, queen's root, sacred bark, black cherrybark, and cinchona bark.

He claimed that it could relieve dyspepsia, liver complaint, chronic diarrhea, skin diseases, coughs, blood diseases, chronic nasal catarrh, and nervous disability; it could also be used as a tonic and to strengthen weak lungs.

"Pleasant Pellets," boasted his ads, would make "weak women strong [and] sick women well by giving strength to the stomach, purity to the blood and life to lungs."

As for the guys, he had a tonic that would give them "an appetite like a cow-boy's and the digestion of an ostrich." (You read that right: an ostrich.)

Plants have indeed yielded many substances used in medicine (digitalis, quinine, morphine, taxol, capsaicin, scopolamine, salicylic acid a.k.a. aspirin, just to name a handful), but it's not admirable medical protocol to lump them randomly into pellets and powders, claim that they cure just about everything, and sell them without ever examining the patient.

Pierce was never run out of town on a rail, however (in fact, his offspring continued selling the products well into the twentieth century), although Collier's and Ladies Home Journal did have a go at him.  He blanketed the nation with newspaper and magazine ads, and barns across the countryside were painted with giant letters trumpeting his wares. If he'd had the Internet back then, you can bet he'd have websites, a Twitter feed, fake-news videos, and Facebook lackies galore to tout his miracle cures.

This guy is lymphatic. Don't be this guy.
In addition to the groveling testimonials and Pierce's own bragging, the Common Sense Medical Adviser contains curious references to ancient modes of thinking about the human body and its systems, such as the theory of four "bodily humors"--black bile, plhlegm, yellow bile, and blood--inherited from the ancient Greeks. Medicine continued to be dogged by this theory for much of the 1800s.

Pierce had his own take on the temperaments associated with the humors, which were traditionally characterized as melancholic, phlegmatic, choleric, and sanguine; his were lymphatic, sanguine, volitive, and encephalic. He believed these temperaments were created by the relative proportions of the brain's anatomy (which suggests a foray into phrenology as well).

Not surprisingly, this theory ties in with assorted baseless and racist observations by Pierce, which he often aims at Native Americans (whose dwindling numbers due to genocide he blindly likens to the disappearance of animal species).

He also offers up diagrams of skulls and chart of the "cranial capacity of human races," which as you might expect lists Caucasian races at the top and everybody else lower down. (Top marks go to Swedes, Anglo-Saxons, and Finns, with Anglo-Americans scoring lowest among whites.) Odious stuff.

Dr. Pierce's absurd skull diagram.
And although Pierce makes references to germs, notions about "bad air" pop up in his work. For example, he doesn't indicate that mosquitoes in swampy places are responsible for transmitting malaria; instead, he blames winds in damp areas for bringing "the poison of decayed vegetable matter from low lands" and claims that "the dampness of the leaves [in trees near homes] tends to attract  malaria" and encourages "unhealthy vapors."

On the other hand, he devotes many pages to the need for proper ventilation of schools, factories, workshops, and dwellings, which strikes me as pretty progressive for his time.

Overall, though, the book is peppered with convenient anecdotes trotted out by Doc Pierce to back up his viewpoint. One of my favorites is a tale that manages to combine superstitions about pregnant women with dotty "science" and condescension toward women all in one neat package:

"Dr. Pierce, please tell me,
where do babies come from?"
Anger or fear may transmute the mother's nourishing milk into a virulent poison....A carpenter fell into a quarrel with a soldier billeted in his house, and was set upon by the latter with his drawn sword. The wife of the carpenter at first trembled from fear and terror, and then suddenly threw herself between the combatants, wrested the sword from the solider's hand, broke it in pieces, and threw it away....

While in this state of strong excitement, the mother took up her child from the cradle, where it lay playing, and in the most perfect health, never having had a moment's illness; she gave it the breast, and in so doing sealed its fate. In a few minutes the infant left off sucking, became restless, panted, and sank dead upon the mother's bosom.

So, ladies, make sure you always remain mild mannered and genteel! Because...
...milk is sometimes poisoned by a fit of ill-temper, and the infant made sick and occasionally thrown into convulsions, which in some instances prove fatal.
But one doesn't have to squint much to see that Pierce has descendants a-plenty in our own day and age when it comes to fake news, pseudoscience, racism, and all the rest. So we can't feel too smug about the knowledge we've gained since his time.
Dr. Pierce's diagram for how to stop bleeding from a thigh
wound. I can't look at this image without thinking the poor
 fellow is trying to dress up as a triskelion for Halloween.

Here are some random bits from Pierce's book, for sheer amusement, in part from the florid writing popular in Piercie's time as well as his tome.
"Foreign bodies, such as beads, peas, coffee-grains, and small gravel-stones are occasionally introduced into the nostrils of children, becoming fastened there, and causing great anxiety and alarm."
"The Garden of Eden was no harem."
"Base ball, cricket, boxing, and fencing, are all manly exercises when practiced solely with a view to their hygienic advantages, and as such have our approval."
"Notwithstanding the fact that dancing has been perverted to the base purposes, has been made the fruitful source of dissipation, and has often laid the foundation for disease, it is yet capable of being made to minister to health and happiness."
"We were called not long ago, to see a young lady who had contracted a severe cold....In short, her legs were not kept warm, and she took cold by going out from warm rooms into a chilly atmosphere. A good pair of woolen leggings might have saved her much suffering."
"Living organisms are universally diffused over every part of the globe. The gentle zephyr wafts from flower to flower invisible, fructifying atoms, which quickens beauty and fragrance, giving the promise of a golden fruitage, to gladden and nourish a dependent world."
"In some cases in which the system is full of humors or impurities of the blood, the golden medical discovery tablets and pellets will bring the humors tho the surface and cause severe eruptions of pimples and blotches." (I'm sure Doc Pierce has some handy-dandy pills for that.)
Dr. Pierce's hospital was stuffed with machines that kneaded, rubbed,
oscillated, shook, vibrated, and massaged. This one looks a lot like
a Queens-Aid Slimming Machine, one of those 1950s devices like the
one my mom used to have in our basement that reputed to tone you
by shaking the bejesus out of you.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Bits and Pieces

When you're middle-aged and relatively healthy, "downsizing" feels great. Decluttering! Simplifying! Purging! Streamlining! It's revitalizing, a welcome palate cleanser before tucking into the next entree in the feast of life.

But it can feel quite different when you're helping an elderly person downsize, especially if that person is your parent.

My mother cherished her possessions--the heirlooms and scraps inherited from her parents, the pretty items she'd picked out herself, the gifts she'd received over the course of a long and rewarding life--and watching her struggle with what to keep and what to shed was distressing.

And why wouldn't it be? The enterprise was prompted by loss--my father's death, Mom's declining health, the slow untethering of her mind and spirit by way of dementia. Parting with objects redolent of younger days and good times is rather the opposite of freeing against that background.

Which is why I came to be in possession of several Ziploc bags stuffed with hundreds of circles of fabric in a multitude of colors.

Half a century and a bit ago, Mom had painstakingly cut out all these little circles from leftover fabric and old clothing.

Some bits were recognizable. A purple and blue ditsy floral pattern came from the remnants of fabric used to make a sundress--one that my petite mom wore in her teens, and that fit me for about five minutes in my own adolescence.

Another scrap I recognized as the material Mom used to make yo-yo pillows for my childhood dollhouse.

Every so often in recent years, the circles had resurfaced in the ongoing sorting-out of objects. "Mom, what are your plans for these?" I'd ask.

Mom would ruffle the circles in the bag for a bit and reply, "I don't know. I might use them for something." Back they'd go into a box for another year . (I didn't object...Storing Stuff That Might Be Useful is part of my DNA, too.)

So here they are again, eight months after Mom's death. Still with the needle stuck in the fabric where she'd last poked it when setting the project aside back in the 1950s.

I didn't want to just get rid of them, even though sewing and I do not get along. Oh, I can hem things, and I would really like to be able to sew stuffed animals (though truthfully, I'd rather have completed creating the stuffed animals, without ever having had to do the actual sewing of them).

But sewing, with the stupid thread that ties itself in knots  even though it has no beginning or ending in the loop...and all that measuring...it makes me want to gnash my teeth and rend my garments. (Though I won't, because then I'd have to sew the garments.)

Still, sometimes I need a fairly mindless activity to take my mind off tasks, an activity that doesn't require reading or writing; stitching circles together to make...something...didn't seem like a bad plan.

First, I separated the circles to see if I could find any clues to the plans Mom might've had for them. "Please, please, do not reveal that Mom ever intended to make one of those yo-yo clowns," I thought.

(I wanted to supply a public-domain image of a yo-yo clown here for reference, but could not find one. However, dear reader, bow your head in thanks that I have spared you the frightening task of Googling clown images.)

Then this appeared among the circles:


Fortunately, Mom herself was not enchanted with her foray into clown-making, because she got much further in a project involving stitching yo-yos together to make flowers:


By now I'd planned to finish making yo-yos out of the fabric circles and sewing them together anyway to create a colorful tablecloth. So revising the design to make yo-yo flowers first and then stitching the flowers together was simple enough.

Finishing this project for Mom won't sew up the raveled edges of a life without her, but it's a lovely feeling nonetheless.







Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How Do You Start Drawing Again?

In a small child's life, soon after bawling, squalling, and crawling are established, along comes scrawling. (Which often includes some crayon-eating and paint-sipping.)
Colors zigzag across paper and books and possibly walls up to a 3-foot height. If you're lucky and careful, those little hands never grab hold of a permanent-ink Sharpie.
Then the child's drawings start resembling things. She churns out self-portraits, parents, siblings, houses, trees, the sun, and pets. 
After that, most kids go on to fill reams of paper for the next few years, scrubbing their way through multiple 64-crayon boxes. 
Sophie, age 5, with one of her many horse pictures.

But at some point, a lot of these furiously drawing kids just...stop. They put down their crayons and Magic Markers (and this was true long before laptops, cell phones, and tablets). They may pick them up again, but often only to do homework and other assigned tasks.
Anecdotally, it's said that if you ask kindergartners "how many of you can draw?" all the kids raise their hands. Ask a few years later, and very few will tentatively admit that they can...a bit.
I suppose this decline is due to growing self-consciousness; kids are forever policing one another's behavior as well as watching for any sign that a peer thinks he or she is "better" than everybody else. 
So I was no different from most other kids when I was little in that I loved to draw, and though by mid-elementary years I wouldn't dare raise my hand for fear of being mocked, I still drew--a lot. I drew just because I liked to, but also discovered that drawing provided an enchanted shield that fended off bullying and teasing.  Kids might pick on you or shun you, but when they saw you could draw a little, they'd be a little nicer to you...for a while, anyway.
Tiger, lioness, lion by yours truly, age 5
or 6. The start of a wildlife encyclopedia
I intended to write and illustrate, though
I wearied of the task by page 3.
The animal kingdom is rather large.
Drawing helped me endure the first and only summer day camp I attended when I was about five years old. At that age, I didn't feel particularly bad about myself. I had a few playmates, and I went to a few birthday parties. Life was good.
But then my parents decided to sign me up for a day camp. No doubt they thought it would be a super treat for me, especially as Mom was busy with my newborn baby brother that summer. 

Unfortunately, I started camp a few days after it had officially begun. 
And that was plenty of time for the other little girls to have formed friendships .
When I appeared on the scene, they all closed ranks--all except one slightly plump girl who was ostracized because she was sturdily built. She and I became friends and stuck together most of the time. 
My popularity wasn't exactly improved by my fear of going underwater during swimming lessons (I prayed for rain every single morning). My outsider status was further cemented when we took a trip to Carvel's Ice Cream Shop and (a) everybody else ordered chocolate and I got vanilla, and (b) I bit off the end of my cone to eat the ice cream from the bottom up, which someone had told me was a cool thing to do, but was actually just a really stupid and messy thing to do.
Though I don't think these events explain why my only friend turned on me the very last day, singing a taunting anthem along with the other girls and bidding me farewell with the remark, "I hate you. I was only pretending to like you."
Ouch!
But there was that day, that one solitary day, when it did rain. 
At first, there was just enough sunshine for us to indulge in some archery (real arrows and big stuffed targets--I'm surprised there weren't eyes being put out right and left). For some weird reason, I was top-notch at archery, landing that sucker smack dab in the middle of the target every time.  
As Pigpen says in A Charlie Brown Christmas, "Sort of makes you want to treat me with more respect, doesn't it?"
It did...for a few minutes.  
Then, blissfully, it began to rain. Buckets.  We were hustled indoors. Paper and crayons and pencils were doled out. And we drew.  
Before too long, a girl spotted my paper. "Hey, that's good!" she said loudly. Other kids clustered around. Soon I was drawing cats and dogs for them.
This won me a whole day or two of respect. But memories are brief at age five, and life reverted to its usual focus of trying to remain invisible. Fortunately, the whole horrible experience of being sent to Kid Siberia for the summer would soon end.  My mom recalls that on the last day, I stepped into the house and stated, "The hell with that."
Throughout the rest of my school years, I continued to draw, putting art teachers through grueling tests of patience in middle school as I created an endless stream of horses. In college, friends found the animals I drew amusing (bless you, AΔΦ brothers and sisters) with the exception of one (non-AΔΦ) male housemate who chastised me for not taking art "seriously" and "wasting" any ability I might have.*
[*Editor's note: I have found some of the "serious" art I produced in art classes. Believe me when I say that no talent was wasted in the production of these works, nor will successive generations be deprived of scintillating artistic scope and vision. Unless you think a badly drawn deer standing on a snowy hill in front of a barn surrounded by a landscape experiencing a completely different season is Art for the Ages.]
After college, I noodled about taking a few cartooning classes in New York City after my editorial-assistant job wrapped up at 5 p.m. (Weirdly, the art director made it her business to say sneeringly almost every Wednesday, "Off to your...[pause] cartooooning class now?"). 
Gradually, though, pens and pencils were set aside. Paper stayed bound in its notebooks. The birth of my daughter reignited some drawing energy (we spent many happy hours filling yards of paper with horses), but outside of our home, being an adult able to draw a little was Frowned Upon in our co-op preschool.
So scary! (source)
It would be Off-Putting, you see, to draw when children were looking on. These fragile souls might be so humbled and threatened by the sight of an adult drawing, they might never, ever pick up a crayon again. (One young mom, whom we dubbed The Young Child-Rearing Expert, made sure to say VERY LOUDLY, while praising another young mom's husband's interactions with the kids and glaring at me, "It's not like he draws a giraffe that the kids see and know they can't replicate. He doesn't intimidate them.")
Clearly, being able to draw googly-eyed animals doesn't inoculate one from condemnation in adulthood the way it does when you're a kid.

Then, when my daughter was in elementary school and I inadvertently doodled something one day, a friend exclaimed, "I didn't know you could draw!" To my surprise, this jolted me; it felt as if I'd abandoned some key element that had formed me, like growing up in a foreign country and not telling any of my new acquaintances.
Now that I'm older than most dirt, the desire to fill up paper with pictures is tugging at my sleeve again. 

Today, there are no preschoolers swarming around me who might give up illustrious dreams of art school and the National Portrait Gallery because I drew a giraffe. 

There are no sneering art directors. 

There are no mean kids like the one in middle school who teased me daily until her friends pointed out that I could draw horses. ("Well..." she said grudgingly, and then, pointing to the line I drew under a horse, added triumphantly, "but she's not very good at ground.")
No, now I just have to contend with what's on my desk: jars of pencils and empty sheets of paper, and a wall as intimidating as Becher's Brook in the Grand National steeplechase. Written on this wall is something to the effect of "what is the purpose of doing this? is there an end goal? what is the point?" 
I'm realizing that the past two decades have required a lot of getting-things-done both at home and at work (this kind of goes with the territory of Being a Grown-Up) and that I have to go back to my earliest years as well as my daughter's childhood to relocate that lovely feeling of just doing something for no reason at all...not to get fit, or clean something, or finish a writing job, or the like. It's harder than I'd thought it would be.
In the midst of all this self-scrutiny, though, I've been stumbling upon little messages left and right. For starters, I discovered that my shelves held a copy of Drawbreakers (Klutz Press), a doodling book filled with ridiculous things like a leopard to daub with your own pattern and a photo of a fishing rod and line clearly pulling something in--but it's up to you to draw the "something." 
Then I was reading Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley and came upon this paragraph, which describes the narrator visiting Kal, a tattoo artist who sits down to design an image with him and says, "Let's Draw":
I smile the way I did as a child when receiving a fresh box of sixty-four Crayola crayons-unabashedly, showing all my teeth. I remember how much I used to love to draw, and I wonder why I don't do it anymore.  I write, I guess. I draw with words. But when I see Kal's pad and charcoal, I'm overwhelmed with the feeling that it's not the same.
And then there was this imperative, from Lynda Barry in What It Is:
To all the kids who quit drawing...come back!
Finally, I came across the transcript of an NPR interview with Mo Willems of Pigeon fame, who sounds as if he wouldn't lend much credence to the advice of The Young Child-Rearing Expert in the preschool co-op:
One of the interesting things about cartooning and doodling and drawing is that people stop when they decide they're not good at it. Nobody stops playing basketball when they realize they're not going to become a professional. The same thing should apply to cartooning....One of the biggest reasons children stop drawing is that they see that adults don't do it, Willems says. When he goes into classrooms, he says, teachers often ask him to get the kids to draw. But when he does, many of the teachers don't participate.  "Well, now the kids realize that this is just a baby activity," he says. He reminds us that parents are actually cool in kids' eyes — for a while — and kids want to imitate what they do.
I guess I can draw a conclusion from all this. 

Go sharpen those pencils!