Household Chores: Now and Then

While lunching with a couple of friends who were 30 years younger than I, the conversation turned to how much had changed in their lifetimes. I listened, and yes, there have been an astounding number of changes during their 55 years. I could have entered the conversation and reminded them of even more changes that have occurred in my lifetime. I didn’t, but it set me to thinking.
My mother and father divorced when I was six year old. Back then, divorce wasn’t so common. While my mother had custody of my younger brother and me, I did spend summers with my father. I should say I spent them on the family farm with my grandmother because that’s where I really stayed until my father re-married. But, that’s another story.
I remember that life was regimented by farm work for the men and a series of chores for the women that took place on certain days of the week. Monday was wash day. That meant starting a fire in a large black iron pot and when the water finally came to a boil; clothes were sorted and dropped into the steaming water. The least dirty were washed first for all would be washed in the same water. Clothes were then transferred to the rinse pot, rung out by hand and hung on clothes lines. When the lines were full, every bush and low tree branch wore the long johns and overalls.
Tuesday the irons were heated by the fireplace; they really were made of iron ─thus the name. The ironing was done on a covered board placed between two tops of ladder back chairs. Wednesday morning, sewing and mending were scheduled with often an afternoon of quilting. On Thursdays the old farm house smelled divine for that was baking day. The corner “safe” was filled with cakes and pies meant to last most of the next week (but seldom did).
Friday was cleaning day. On that day even the parlor was opened, aired out, swept and dusted. Rugs were taken to the clothes lines. I loved swinging the wire rug beater. Somebody got the chore of sprinkling lye down the outhouse stalls. A lot of cooking took place on Saturdays. Sometimes we kids were lucky and got to ride into town with my dad or an uncle to pick up ice and stuff that didn’t grow on farms. Sundays everyone dressed in their best and went to church after a breakfast of hot biscuits and gravy. The family gathered on the porch after a big Sunday meal warmed in the big old wood stove. Tall tale time and local gossip began. My grandmother often told stories of how hard it used to be.
As I sit here writing, my washing machine and dryer are running and so is the dishwasher. I can hear the hum of the vacuum as the Molly Maids clean. In a period of about 3 hours, all the chores will be finished. The television, computers and gadgets will fill the time my grandmother never had.

Thoughts on abortion

I recently attended a fund raising dinner for “Mary’s Shelter.” For those that may not be familiar with “Mary’s Shelter,” it is a temporary home(s) for pregnant women who are in dire need of help. For one reason or another, they are homeless or in need of protection during their pregnancy and for a short while after the birth of their baby. The shelter is also an alternative to abortion for desperate mothers-to-be. About 400 people were in attendance, some were the mothers and their babies. A worthy cause.
There were two very large screens on either side of the speaker’s podium. During dinner, pictures of beautiful, happy babies were shown for emphasis against abortion.
But my mind began to slip and slide. I wrestle with this issue like so many others. I wondered what the reaction in that room would be if all those beautiful pictures were suddenly replaced with pictures of grotesque births. Unthinkable! And yet.
It was in a small town north of Baltimore that I began my wrestle with this subject. I was a happy, busy mother of four healthy, smart children and a community activist. Because of one of my community roles, I was invited one day to visit an alternative school, a sort of day school for children out of the mainstream. The facility was composed of two large rooms. I cannot even begin to describe the shock that awaited me as I stepped into the front room. Where had I been? I did not realize that this facility existed nor the children it housed, closeted out of sight. Some of their small bodies were twisted beyond belief, eyes blank, mouths drooling. Two children had extremely large heads that had to be supported by tying them to the back of a chair. Their misery would soon be over I was told. There was a brother and sister that I shall never forget. Their bodies were covered with hair, their eyes beady, their arms long, almost touching the floor. They closely resembled monkeys. Needless to say, I had nightmares for days. I felt that these children should not have been born to a life of torture.
I had a friend in this same town who suddenly found herself pregnant in her late forties. There was no question of abortion, she was a devout Catholic. Her family worried, her friends worried, and her doctor worried. About six months into the pregnancy, the doctor told her something was wrong with the baby. This was before all the screening devices when instinct and physical exams were the norm. She had just begun her seventh month when awakened by terrific pains and rushed to the hospital.
The birth aborted. My friend told us that God had chosen to take the baby back. In other words, God had aborted her baby! Gossip will prevail in small towns so we eventually learned from an attending nurse that the baby boy was deformed in a horrible manner.
Yes, God (or nature if you will) does abort. And God (or nature if you will) also gave us common sense. Of course abortion should not be used as birth control. There are too many alternatives for sane and sensible birth control. But there are also circumstances that call for common sense.

Looking back and seeing the present…

For my 85th birthday, I received an authentic copy of the New York Herald Tribune dated March 5, 1927. I remember that even as a teenager I was an avid newspaper reader. I soon learned that even if you can’t believe everything you see written, a newspaper makes you realize that you are living in moments that are destined to become history.

My addiction is known to all of my family. When we traveled for business or pleasure, my husband, Jim, always bought the local paper for me, sometimes even when we just stopped in a town for lunch. A great deal of information about a town, its people and its joys and troubles are revealed in the black ink of a newspaper. What is important in one town, not so much so in another. The daily headlines of many newspapers hung side by side in the Washington Newseum attests to that.

When I was 62, I was asked by a local newspaper if I would consider becoming at stringer for them. I was in seventh heaven and soon writing a variety of articles for which I was lucky enough to win a few awards from the Virginia Press Women.

History repeating itself is often validated through newspapers.  An above the fold headline article in the March 5, 1927 New York Times read: “Vital Money Bills Die As 69th Congress Ends; Extra Session Vetoed.”