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.

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