There had to be something useful to occupy my time, something that moved me forward rather than left me feeling further behind. I tried to remember the things Mom used to do to keep on top of things and organized. It might make me feel sad but I’d rather feel sad than stupid and useless.
First thing that came to mind was her weekly chore schedule that we stuck to heck or high water … or at least as much as life allowed barring catastrophe or Dad leaving TDY.
Monday was wash day. Dainties were washed by hand as necessary. Any other clothes too filthy or rancid were spot treated and/or rinsed by hand then hung on the drying rack to keep them from mildewing or staining before the next wash day. Our dress and school clothes were separate from our work and play clothes and never the twain should meet … at least until they were beyond repair or beyond being someone else’s hand me downs.
Tuesday was a continuation of Monday and is when we did all the ironing, mending, and sewing. With three brothers and a father you know there was a lot of all of that going on. Dad’s uniforms had to conform at all times and Mom made sure his blues and his fatigues were perfect. The boys learned to do their own during ROTC because they’d have to know how for Basic and beyond unless they planned on spending an arm and a leg on drying cleaning. And that’s all the distance down that road I went except to remember Mom always spent that evening working on some handcraft project or other. She claimed it relaxed her. When she was teaching me how to sew I have to say I found the time anything but relaxful because if a stitch wasn’t right I had to take it out and do it over again … and that happened a lot more than I wanted it to.
Wednesday was gardening but during many parts of the year this day spread out into every day of the week but Sunday and even then we would pick anything that was too ripe to last another day on the vine. But, Mom did try and restrict working in her “pretties” to this day of the week … her African violets and roses and the like. Both are gone now except for the wild roses that are just a continuation of the roses transplanted there by some ancestress or ‘nother. There were none I could save from the duplex, and even if I had they never would have survived the trek to Idaho and then to Tennessee. I did manage to squirrel away some flower seeds from her annuals but I have no idea if they will germinate in the spring; we’ll just have to wait and see.
Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday except that it was for food preservation. Up until Dad died there were very few Wednesdays that there wasn’t a canner of something going … usually more than a single canner. I tried to keep it up – that’s actually where I did most of my learning through too many mistakes but it was hard because we were always pinched for money, especially for the electric bill. One time and one time only Dad made a crack about the electric bill being too high from Mom canning so much. I think that is the closest I ever heard them get to an argument where we could hear it … and it wasn’t about the electric bill in particular so much as about money in general. The twins were in college but were still living at home and groceries were getting so expensive. The boys could only work so many hours and still go to school full time and do their ROTC stuff. Dad was doing what he called retirement planning and I guess the anxiety of it all just hit both of them, especially after the IDP (imminent danger pay otherwise known to most civilians as hazard pay) had been cut yet again despite the fact that Dad was deployed to some pretty crappy places. They worked it out – and Mom kept canning – but I know for some months afterwards they talked repeatedly of Dad putting in for another tour beyond his twenty even if it meant putting off retiring until after Paulie graduated. In the end I guess none of that mattered very much.
Friday was cleaning day. Not that we didn’t clean every day of the week but Friday was the day we did all the deep cleaning stuff … the baseboards, the inside of cabinets, the oven, the bathroom from ceiling to floor (sometimes literally). We washed out all of the trash cans, checked the sofa cushions for change that tried to escape from people’s pockets, dusted, vacuumed the fans, etc. Dust bunnies were nearly an extinct critter in our home; they were certainly on the endangered species list. If Mom saw one she killed it right then and there so that it couldn’t find a mate and multiply exponentially.
Saturday was baking. Mom hated most store-bought bread and she spoiled the rest of us because of her dislike. She used the electric bread maker Dad gave her one Christmas for our everyday bread but on Saturdays she would make rolls, buns, cookies, cakes, pies, or whatever else was on the menu for the following week. Saturday was also the day of Little League, camp outs, and school projects.
Sunday was church day and ostensibly a day of rest but with Mom I never was quite sure if she truly believed in such a thing. That was the day she worked on her scrapbooking or recipe collection, when she did her letter writing, and when she would sit down and read a book though the book was usually about something useful like gardening or some kind of sewing. Dad was the same way. If he wasn’t on a swing shift or something like that, on Sunday afternoon you could find him fishing in one of the local ponds or lakes or puttering around in his shop … that’s assuming he hadn’t eaten too much of Mom’s good cooking after church and fallen asleep in his recliner or in the hammock outside. I remember one time at one of those silly block parties people like to organize a neighbor asking them why they worked so much, that it was the modern era and people should have more leisure time. Dad answered for both of them and said there’d be plenty of leisure time once they were dead and buried and they preferred to take advantage of the daylight while they had it. Shut the know-it-all neighbor up, that’s for sure.
Ever since I took over the household responsibilities I realized more and more I had a pretty cool set of parents. Every once in a while it was like living in a Dr. Demento movie but looking back I’m fairly certain that it didn’t happen nearly as often as modern psychology and physics dictated that it should have for normal human beings. And they both worked outside the home – Dad in the military, coming and going as dictated by his superiors, and Mom part time in the church day care during the school year. Yeah, I’ll count myself a real woman if I get even half way as good as my parents were at facing, dealing, and living the life that they were given.