The basket was finely crafted. Reeds and grasses had been softened and woven to create the basket and its tight-fitting lid. Its lacquered finish had a golden glow. On the outside, a cluster of flowers had been painted on by a careful hand. Inside, the basket was filled with small packages, some wrapped in bright paper, some placed in jars.
A young girl had prepared the basket, filled with small gifts, to give to her mother. It is the custom in Singapore that when a young woman leaves her parents’ home to establish a home of her own, she presents her mother with a hand-painted basket of gifts representing all the things her mother has taught her. The gifts are carefully planned and made. They include such items as food delicacies, handwork, paintings, or writing. Each represents something that has been taught by her mother. There are also symbolic gifts of qualities such as patience and cheerfulness. The basket would also include souvenirs that remind both of happy family times. The young woman in Singapore was essentially returning some small portion of what her mother had given in teaching her.
As young LDS women learn homemaking skills, they too can give gifts back to their mothers and teachers by beautifying the lives of others. As they do this, they will symbolically create their own baskets of gratitude.
A perfect example of this giving of talent to others is Ida Jackson of the Provo Grandview Stake in Utah. Sister Jackson was taught to tat by her Beehive teacher. On that teacher’s 80th birthday, Sister Jackson presented her with a handkerchief edged with tatting. The teacher, with tears in her eyes, was touched that a skill she had taught so many years ago to a little 13-year-old would have been remembered, cherished, and used. Now in her 80s herself, Sister Jackson is passing the art on to a new generation. She is teaching the girls of her stake the art of using thread and a shuttle to create delicate tatted lace. During the first demonstration of tatting, the girls were a little hesitant. “We can’t learn that. It’s too hard.” But with patience and by using heavyweight thread, the girls began to catch on to the exacting under-and-over movements of the shuttle and the deft twists of the fingers to make the knots that form tatted lace.
Soon the girls were practicing their tatting at odd moments at home and in public. They came to enjoy the questions. People were always asking, “What is that? I’ve never seen that before.” For some girls, learning to tat became a connecting thread to their mothers and grandmothers as treasured samples of the art that had been passed down as family heirlooms were pulled out of trunks and closets.
“It has been a lovely thing for our stake,” says Elaine Strunk, Young Women president of the Grandview Stake. “It’s been a way for the girls to learn more about their mothers’ and grandmothers’ talents.” The gift of a rich heritage was added to the basket.
Within the homemaking arts area of focus of the Young Women Personal Progress program are six suggested skill areas—child care and guidance; improving relationships; home management; sewing and care of clothing; home beautification; and food, fitness, and personal appearance. Specialists can be called to help teach specific skills.
In the Granite 12th Ward, Sandy Granite Stake, the girls combined a valuable lesson in sparing someone’s feelings with learning the art of quilting. Heidi Tuft explains that it all started at camp. “It was one girl’s birthday. Somebody called her a nickname that hurt her feelings. We all wanted to apologize, so we wrote a letter and each of us signed it with a nickname we didn’t care for. Our leader signed hers as ‘Frog Master.’ After that, frogs became our mascots.” The girls appliquéd comical pictures of frogs on a quilt top and learned to make the tiny, even stitches required in quilting. Heidi said, “It was hard learning to quilt. We had to keep starting over until we learned how.” When the quilt was completed, the girls presented it to a counselor in the bishopric. The quilt became a visual reminder of the lessons they had learned together. The gift of kindness had been added to their baskets.
Helping girls become proficient in the kitchen was the goal for the American Fork East Stake. To stress creativity and use a central theme, the stake leaders chose to have all recipes include carrots. Lisa Faucett explained the reaction of most of the girls to the idea. “At first, everyone was really surprised. Most said they didn’t like carrots. But after we learned to make casseroles with carrots, carrot cake, drinks made with carrot juice, carrot cookies, carrot salad, carrot muffins, and carrot pudding, we all found something we really liked.” She shook her head in amazement. “I didn’t know you could do so many things with a carrot.”
The American Fork girls used their newfound abilities in the kitchen to help others. In several Share-and-Care evenings they prepared some of their carrot masterpieces and delivered them to a homebound person in boxes or cans decorated with the carrot theme. For Chris Stephens, sharing was the best part of the learning-to-cook experience. “It was fun to take what we made to different people. We visited an older lame couple. They really appreciated our efforts.” The gift of charity had been added to the basket.
The Beehive girls of the Provo East Stake have become better babysitters because of the workshops they attended on child care. Besides learning how to care for and entertain children, the Provo girls learned basic first aid and what to do in an emergency. Each girl made a babysitting kit that included simple games, portable party paraphernalia, puppets, and musical instruments made out of cans. The kit also included a plastic apron with pockets for bandages, towels for cleanup, scissors, paper, and crayons. Crystal Ashton enjoys using her Kiddy Kare Kit. “The children I tend like the parties and the puppets the best. They love everything we do with the kit.” The gift of caring was added to the basket.
Learning to improve relationships was the topic for the Sharon West Stake in Provo. In this difficult yet rewarding subject area, the girls learned about decision making, good manners, and the art of being gracious. Inspired by what she had learned at the workshops, one girl asked her younger brother for a date, taking time from a full schedule of work, school, and activities. Surprised and pleased, the brother said, “What, just me?” They did some of his favorite things and continued to build a closer bond. The gift of brotherly love was placed in the basket.
Working on personal appearance was of great interest to the girls in the Orem Utah Stake. For several Saturday mornings, the girls met to learn about choosing and caring for a wardrobe, personal grooming, and poise. The workshops stressed the importance of letting their outward appearance reflect their inner beauty. Lorien Eastly and Jody Brinholt were unanimous in their selection of a favorite workshop session. They both enjoyed learning how to walk and how to handle themselves in potentially embarrassing situations. Jody said the workshops gave both her and her friends more confidence. “Now we just feel a lot better about ourselves. Our leaders taught us that when we look good we don’t have to be concerned with ourselves and we can pay attention to others.” Poise and beauty were added to the basket.
While these stakes were involved in teaching homemaking skills, scheduling girls’ time around school and other activities was difficult. One father worried about his daughter’s involvement, especially with her heavy homework load. In expressing his concern that his daughter might be wasting time in her homemaking workshops, he asked the girl’s leader about the program. The leader told him to ask his daughter if she felt it was worth her time. After talking with his daughter and hearing her strong favorable reaction, he reported back to the Young Women leader. His daughter would be attending the workshops. “I had no idea she would feel that way about going to a church meeting,” he said.
The homemaking skills taught by mothers and teachers to Young Women are indeed gifts. As a young woman learns to serve her family and others, she truly uses these gifts to their best advantage and, in this way, returns a basket filled with goodness and beauty.