Today’s post comes from Jacque.
I am the first to admit that my life growing up was, well, unusual. I came from thrifty, hardworking, somewhat eccentric people. My parents were the first people in their families to go to college and graduate with 4 year degrees. Mom and Dad grew up in the Great Depression on farms where their frugal parents survived by using things up, patching, repairing, and saving money. Every one pitched in to help with family chores. They passed this on in their parenting. We had chores. We saved money.
My siblings and I grew up bearing a lot of responsibility given our young ages. Mom worked outside the home as a teacher during a time when Mom’s usually stayed home to care for the family. Our Dad stayed home with us because his illness, Multiple Sclerosis limited his life. This arrangement demanded that we all pitch in for the common good of our family. We helped with Dad’s care, with cooking, cleaning, and gardening.
Now, in our adulthood, my brother, sister and I gather and regale ourselves (and any one who will listen) with the tales of our growing up, our chores, our travel stories, and our family’s attempts to save a buck. We roar with laughter at our own stories. Our kids, now grown-ups, too, are a bit tired of these stories. So we always seek new victims to listen to them, like, say, Baboons!
This year for Mother’s Day, my brother, sister and I went out with our Mom, now 87 years old, for supper. We teased her a bit, which she loves. We made 2 lists, reflecting our unusual life together: our chores and our family methods of stretching a penny. Today you get List #1, Our Chores. Items 1-3 are pretty standard stuff. Item 4 starts to stretch the limits, of well, normal? Of reliving the Geat Depression
- Saturday mornings clean the house. I vacuumed, my sister dusted, my brother emptied the garbage and goofed off. NO CARTOONS. This really meant that the moment Mom went grocery shopping, we turned on the TV. Dad never told. My sister and I posted our brother at the window to watch for Mom’s car so we could turn it off in time to stay out of trouble. We cleaned AND watched cartoons.
- Set the table before a meal.
- Often we cooked the meal.
- Wash and dry dishes after each meal.
- Light dad’s pipe when requested. Knock the old ashes out, clean it with a pipe cleaner, refill. Do not pack too hard or it won’t light easily, then the match will burn your finger.
- Make dad’s coffee in an old-fashioned stove top drip coffeemaker which loaded the grounds in the bottom of the upper part. We had to pour boiling hot water from the bottom carafe into the upper part which fed the hot water through the grounds back into the bottom carafe. I learned to do this at age 9. Pour the coffee. Put Dad’s straw in it and place it where he could drink it.
- When my diabetic Grandpa lived with us, it was my job to watch him for symptoms of insulin shock. If he showed symptoms, I ran to the refrigerator, poured a glass of orange juice and assisted him in getting it down his throat. (I was 9 years old at the time)
- Get dad his urinal, run it to the bathroom, empty it, rinse it, and flush.
- Gather food scraps and take them to compost pile.
- Operate washer and dryer. Fold clothes. “Sprinkle” clothes which would need ironing, then iron them.
This list looks like we were slackers compared to Mom’s list of childhood chores, which consisted of tasks such as milk cows, churn butter, clean out the barn, so it is all relative I guess. The Great Depression really did influence our experiences in the 1950’s and 60’s despite its long demise.
Did you re-experience the Great Depression in your childhood?