I had an easy time through motherhood compared to my mom. Actually not just my mom, but most mom’s raising children during the 40’s-60’s (before then it was even more labor intensive and not just the labor part). Mom did this without fast food, air conditioning, automatic washers and dryer’s, crockpots, convenience foods, wash & wear clothing or the Internet to help with homework. And she worked full time. Her daily/weekly list of to-do’s was mind boggling.
I remember watching her fascinated, as she whipped stiff egg whites, then blending in molten syrup (using one hand) to make perfect divinity every stinking time. No Kitchen Aid mixer doing half the work. She made the best whipped cream using her mother’s rotary beater. A huge advantage for whipping cream though was having delivered milk from Van Sloten’s Dairy which contained nearly solid, fat enhanced cream sitting on the top of the glass milk bottle where a spoon would remain upright in the center, ramrod straight for a few beats. You could move the spoon in a circular motion for 30 seconds and wind up with sweet whipped cream.
I don’t recall mom having (or using) a vegetable peeler. Since this was before baby carrots were born I have to believe she used one on regular carrots yet I don’t remember seeing one in the small utensil section of the silverware drawer. I used to tease her about peeling potatoes with the same paring knife she had for 30 years. She didn’t hesitate buying her only granddaughter (Shannon) a fancy coat for church on Sunday but would not spend her hard earned money (2 bucks-tops) on a new paring knife. Her skills with that dollar paring knife were legendary. She could peel a Winesap pie apple in one long, continuous runner at warp speed. Watching her is how I learned to use a paring knife on fruits & vegetables. I didn’t realize we owned a vegetable peeler but Hubs insists I am mistaken and there’s one in our junk drawer.
Mom used an old wringer washer in our primitive basement. She’d start her laundry day using the hottest water and Tide on the white clothes, wringing out most of the soap before rinsing in clean, warm water, then running each piece through the wringer again. Lug those heavy, wet clothes up the steep stairs through 2 haukees (Dutch word for a haphazard add-on room/breezeway) outside to the clothesline.
Dad’s dress shirts were hung upside down so the clothes pin marks weren’t visible because that part of his shirt got tucked in. After drying on the clothesline, (infusing our duds/sheets/towels with the most incredible fresh outdoor smell), though sometimes the clothes were frozen stiff as the ironing board during Iowa winters. Then they were sprinkled using a small pop bottle with a cork stuck in the top that had numerous holes where the water got shook out, rolled up, covered with a towel and ironed. This was done after her day job, after cooking, serving, eating, and cleaning up the kitchen first. She ironed pillowcases, hankies and every shirt the 5 of us wore. Makes me tired to think about all the extra chores she did without complaint. They were just part of her to-do list routine.
There were no businesses advertising to deliver, ‘ready to eat meals in 30 minutes’ with everything proportionately measured and easy to follow instructions. Mom cooked the way she’d been taught by her two grandmas (her mom died when she was 2 weeks old) which included meat, potatoes, gravy, vegetables, scratch soups and casseroles. Although once Swanson’s TV dinners were discovered (to us around 1960), Mom would buy our favorites, turkey/stuffing for me, Salisbury steak for dad (or an occasional Swanson’s chicken pot pie) to make after Sunday morning church every other week when mom worked. That was the extent of my cooking prowess when I was a teen. But I never burned them either.
I tend to ruminate/reminisce about mom every December. The 13th marked her birthday. She would have been 96 and has been gone 18 years already. We didn’t see eye to eye on everthing, but as I age (which is cruising along at warp speed) I’ve come to appreciate her sacrifice to our family. Her life was not an easy one or particularly happy, but she tried. Hard. Rest easy mom and give Larry a big kiss for me…