Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Wish I had Told Her

The title of this piece is a comment I made to a post written by Pam over at Neffroad.com.  She had written about the women who were "mothers" to her when she was a child and of course this made me think of my own.

My grandchildren, I watch your mother raising you, and I am in awe of how much she does.  She works hard and consciously at the task of being a good mother, devoting her time and talent to providing you with all the opportunities, experiences, and education possible.  On top of this she shows you and tells you over and over that she loves you.

Rural women like my mother, who grew up in the depression, were different in many ways.  They were, in someone's words, "made of sterner stuff."  Working hard, all day every day, to provide a home was pretty much their "raison d'etre." I'm sure Mother never thought she had a hard life, it was just life.

Washday was a once a week all day affair.  Clothes were put one load at a time through the washer, then one piece at a time through the wringer into the first rinse tub, then through the wringer a second time into the second rinse, and finally a third trip through the wringer into the laundry basket.  Then it was out to the yard with them (a basket full of damp clothes is heavy) to be hung on the clothes line. Once dry they were brought back in to be ironed, and there was no such thing as permanent press

 Many long summer days were spent in a kitchen that would have done credit to a steam bath, canning hundreds of jars of tomatoes, corn, and beans.  Hens that were past their prime for egg laying also ended up in canning jars, another job that took a full day to accomplish.  After they were killed by a quick blow with an ax they had to be processed.  First they were dipped in boiling water (steam bath again) to loosen the feathers; then the feathers were pulled out by hand. Wet feathers stink! Next the entrails were removed and the whole birds went into a huge pot of (again) boiling water where they stewed until the meat could be easily removed from the bones.  Finally the cooked meat and broth went into the canning jars, which were once more heated to boiling and sealed for storage.  Fruits were either canned or turned into jams and jellies.  (More than a half century later I still can't abide strawberry jam, which we had in abundance.)

Of course this work was all in addition to the continuing tasks of preparing three meals a day, cleaning the house, tending the yard and the garden (where all those fruits and vegetables came from) and the flock of chickens.  Raising two boys also made demands on her time.  It was she who taught us responsibility, supervising us as we completed our "chores," tasks that she could have done more quickly herself, so that we not only learned how to do them but also that we needed to pull our own weight.

All of this hard physical work didn't leave much time or energy for playing games and reading stories; my brother and I learned to entertain ourselves. We also learned that "I'm bored" would most likely be met with an opportunity to add to our assigned tasks.  At best we would be told to go outside and play.

Through all this, we never doubted that we were loved.  In fact, it was something that we never thought about. Love wasn't expressed with hugs and kisses; the words "I love you" were never spoken, but as an old man, I can look back and see that my brother and I were loved, as much as anyone's children were ever loved.  Mother literally, every day, gave her life for her family; from the time she got up until the time she went to bed all her efforts were for us.  And that's what I wish I had told her.