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.


  1. Sounds a lot like my Mom.... No hugs, kisses or ‘I love yous’ but we know and can feel each day how much she loves us all. She has lived a lifetime for us...

    Beautiful post Grandpa...well written too. I could “see” everything you described....

  2. What a wonderful post. It made me think of the hard work my grandmother did on their small farm. I remember the smell of fresh donuts in the morning but also the hours spent canning and freezing enough food to last the winter. I smiled at your account of wash day because it was an entire day and then you started the dreaded sprinkling with water and putting in the refrigerator so you could just maybe get some of the wrinkles out. They worked hard but they didn't complain. As you put it so well - they were made of sterner stuff. :-)

  3. Your son and your grandchildren will love reading this. The story of plucking the chickens reminded me of my own mother telling me of having to do it when she was growing up. I know she did it occasionally as I was growing up, too. I really remember those headless chickens running around the backyard and Dad chasing me with the cow's tongue when he butchered it! Life on a farm was different and wonderful -- and a whole lot of work.

  4. Wonderful reminiscences. Life on a farm is long hours and very hard work and little liesure times, especially in the old days when nothing was automated. Mother's did not feel the need to be overly affectionate back then--their actions spoke louder than words!

  5. This is lovely, Bob. I think the older generation held back on the hugs and I love yous far more than we do nowadays. But, like you said, you always KNEW you were loved. That's huge. Sometimes actions speak far louder than words, and it seems that's exactly the case with you as a child. Loved this. Thank you for sharing! (And for joining the GRAND Social. It's always a pleasure to see you there!!)

  6. I love this, Bob. You've recalled delightful details that we older folks know were common back then. My mother was demonstrative, but not my dad. But as we matured, we knew we were loved! Interesting that each generation has gotten a bit more lovey dovey and hands-on. I do think your Mom knew that you felt loved and cherished in her own way! Such a beautiful look back, my friend.

  7. Kc, Pat, Lisa, and Joan, Thank you all for your kind comments. I'm glad I stirred up some good memories for you as you have so often done for me.