When you’re approaching the tween years, discovering a note from your mom inside your lunch box isn’t typically something you broadcast around the lunch table. (Just take it from a girl whose mom regularly left I-Love-You notes for her to find until 7th grade — decorated with religious stickers, no less.)
But for 9-year-old Holden Elderkin from Glocester, Rhode Island, her mom’s daily lunchbox notes are far from embarrassing. In fact, they’re pretty badass.
Each day, her mom Meaghan Elderkin draws a different feminist hero on a napkin — along with one of her famous quotes — and tucks it deep within her 4th-grader’s lunchbox. Leaving inspirational drawings for her daughter is something Meaghan’s been doing since Holden was in preschool, she tells Babble; and they’ve only gotten cooler as the years have gone by.
“They’ve progressed over the years from hearts and silly drawings to bad jokes and groan-worthy puns,” says Meaghan, who notes that the feminist-driven notes were inspired a bit more recently.
“The Monday before the election, I had drawn a ‘celebratory’ napkin, anticipating a Hillary win,” explains Meaghan. “It was of a dancing squirrel in a leotard (a la Beyoncé in the ‘Single Ladies’ video) that said ‘Who Run The World? Squirrels.'”
After learning the election outcome, Meaghan says she was having a hard time with the news — and so was Holden.
“She was pretty upset,” Meaghan tells Babble. “She’s a very sensitive kid, and she was genuinely worried about what would happen to some of the more marginalized groups in our country. But the morning after the election, she was the one comforting me and reminding me to ‘be brave like Malala’.”
And that’s when Holden gave her mom an idea:
“I decided to draw her some pictures of strong, brave women with some of their more notable quotes,” she says. “The first round of napkins I drew, the women were somber looking, and I couldn’t even bring myself to draw them with their eyes open. I felt as if we, as a country, had let them down, and I think subconsciously I was trying to protect them from seeing what we had done. But after a few days of moping and wallowing, I decided to take my own advice, and I redrew them. Bigger and more confident, and with their eyes open.”
After that, the drawings just spilled out of her, one by one. Soon, she’d sketched the images of such noteworthy American women as Little Women author Louisa May Alcott, along with her inspiring quote, “I am not afraid of this storm, for I am learning how to sail my own ship.”
And then came Lucille Ball, who famously once said, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”
And of course, the eternally inspiring Malala Yousafzai, who said, “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”
Until last week, Meaghan’s lunchbox notes were nothing more than a private little ritual just between her daughter and her. But on November 10, Meaghan decided to share some of her latest illustrations in the private Facebook group Pantsuit Nation — and was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.
“You are a star,” wrote one user. “Thank you for the reminders of how strong women ARE!”
“These are amazing, and I cannot believe they wouldn’t brighten any girl’s lunch!” wrote another.
There’s no arguing Meaghan’s talent — with a degree in Illustration, the mom of two (who also has a 3-year-old daughter named Elsa), says she works as a freelancer, painting pet portraits and other projects here and there while working as a stay-at-home mom to her girls.
But when it comes to her original inspiration behind the lunchtime drawings, Meaghan credits her own mother.
“My mother used to draw on my lunch napkins when I was a kid, and I loved them so much, that drawing pictures and notes on my own daughters’ napkins was a no-brainer,” she shares.
And yes, she really does draw one every single day.
“Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra organized, I’ll do a week’s worth on Sunday night,” she says. “But drawing them is just part of our morning routine.”
To date, her post in Pantsuit Nation has reached a whopping 22K likes and over 2K shares, though Meaghan admits she’s been shocked by the response:
“I had only been invited to join the Pantsuit Nation group a few days before and I’m not sure that I realized how many people these napkin drawings would reach, or how enthusiastically they would be received. I hadn’t realized that I as a mother, had a loud enough voice to make any sort [of] difference and it made me see that even the smallest acts of encouragement are worth doing.”
They absolutely are.