Thursday, April 19, 2007

In A Nutshell

Well, here we are again, down to

62. I remember this about my mother's work and responsibilities:

Mama was a mother at 19, and began her married life at the end of the Depression and the beginning of WWII -- which meant that she didn't have a lot of the things that we take for granted these days. We lived in a small trailer with an ice box and, consequently, an ice man to deliver the ice and the need to empty the drip tray so that it didn't overflow as the ice melted. She didn't have a washing machine, using a scrub board in the set tubs at various trailer parks where we lived. No dryer. No vacuum cleaner. No dishwasher. One car, which my father needed to get to work, so that Mama took me with her on a bike. Not a nifty, geared, easy to ride bike. A one speed Schwinn. When I was too young to ride the handle bars, she pushed me in a stroller and walked everywhere.

There were no TV dinners or mixes in those days, so Mama made everything except bread and soup from scratch. When she baked pies, she always made pie-kisses for me. She hadn't learned to cook from her mother, because my grandmother got nervous if anyone watched her cook, so when my parents were first married, my father took her to live with his mother for a while. I think that my grandmother Hunt, who could be very petty, didn't really want Mama to be as good a cook as she was, because Mama is a very middling cook, and Grandma Hunt had run a barbecue that had been renowned clear to San Francisco.

Even with no modern conveniences, a trailer only takes so long to clean, so Mama and I had lots of time to play and for her to read to me and teach me nursery rhymes.

After my father died, Mama had to go to work. I know that at one job she was fired and had no idea why until, years later, she mentioned something to Daddy and he realized she had witnessed larceny. She worked at a collection agency, and while there went in and destroyed the record of my father's debt, which had been a result of the Depression and paid off before his death. And she worked as the children's library assistant, a job that she loved the most.

After she married Daddy, the only times she worked outside the home were when she wanted to -- she was a Welcome Wagon hostess and tried to sell real estate and became a bookkeeper, which she was very good at. Housekeeping was much easier this time around. Daddy loved showering her with things to make her life easier, and she had all the latest housekeeping and cooking equipment. And a new car every year.

I think that mothering was harder, though. First off she had three children. Forrest had been a baby when our father died, and he was always a pretty easy kid to care for, being very well mannered and obedient. It was the things that had earned him the nickname of "For Ward, boy, boy" that started turning her hair gray. When he was four he fell into a swimming pool, ate poisoned cherries and went into convulsions, dived off the coffee table onto the Spanish tile floor and cut his scalp, and rammed his head into an open ornamental iron gate and cut his scalp yet again.

Colleen was just a difficult child. She was very sickly for the first five years of her life, constantly coming down with infected tonsils during polio season so that they couldn't be removed. Once her tonsils were out, her hair changed. It had been short and frizzy, never needing cutting because it never grew. After the operation, it became straight and healthy and grew long and lovely. And, Colleen simply refused to be disciplined. She told me once that she saw that Forry and I were always in trouble no matter how good we were and decided there was no percentage in that. And since neither Mama nor Daddy had any idea of what to do about it, she pretty much ruled the roost.

And I was a true gem. I had my little contretemps with Daddy over chores and simply refused to bend. I knew, because Mama told me often and often, that if I wanted something from him all I had to do was get my chores done before he got home, and I refused to "pander" to his demands. It was a matter of principle, or so I thought. And Mama was caught in the middle.

1 comment:

kenju said...

My mother was always accusing me of things I hadn't done (her paranoia). I finally told her that if I was going to be constantly accused of them, I might as well do them. That shut her up.