When you reflect upon your childhood there are often commonalities that people of similar age groups recall…. My Buddy, Kid Sister, Pound Puppies, GI Joe, My little Ponies, specific movies and tv shows…Full House, Saved by the Bell, you catch my drift. To go along with that, there are often specific meals that people of similar economic status can recount, mine being what some of my co-workers have labeled as “poor person food” and to include mashed potato cakes, goulash, spaghetti…things that are, of course DELICIOUS, but served another purpose of being able to be made in large batches or being able to still have flavor when reheated the following day…or week! There are also things that so many kids recall….Cedar Point, Disney, spring break in Florida….I don’t have those recollections, but I do vividly remember long cross country road trips with no entertainment that ended with a week of tent camping in the mountains and bathing in ice cold mountain lakes. Our vacations were not elaborate, but they were meaningful and I truly believe that I could speak for hours about all of the seemingly minute details.
I made a quick stop today after work to see my parents. I only live 4 miles from them, I see them seldom…because of…life! I’m busy, or at least I feel that way. Soccer, swimming, work, 4-H, meetings…again…you catch my drift! I do have to admit, it was a selfish after work plan. I needed my mom. (That will never go away) I needed to ask her how she did it. How did she work 40 + hours a week as a teacher in a classroom of 25 children and then come home and work until bed? How was there a daily full course meal on the table, how was my laundry always clean, how did she get me to ALL of my after school activities and NEVER MISS A GAME? How? Because as I count the hours in the day I’m just not understanding…. She must have a secret…or she’s a witch (which I believed to be true through the majority of my teenage years). But seriously, the house had clutter, but there were never left over dirty dishes, never gross sinks in the bathroom, laundry was always done and FOLDED.…yes…FOLDED…ALL OF IT! How? So, with tears welling in my eyes, I asked….I asked how there was always an amazing dinner, how we all sat down together every day to eat the amazing dinner, how she managed to feed the horses, dogs, goats, bunnies, cats, and her family? And how was there never dog hair on the furniture? Again…I ask…How? My children often have “Make your Own Dinner Night” or “Fruit Night” that consists of me rummaging the fridge and pantry for fresh and canned fruit, fruit snacks, fruit pop-tarts, things that have the word fruit in the label….and having a free-for-all! So…How?
She paused for a quick moment and said, “I had only two priorities. Dinner and Laundry. I always knew we had to eat and I always knew people needed clean clothes. Just those two things. And when I had time, I vacuumed.” Later in the conversation, she said, “You were young. You don’t remember the mess.” And that is when I suddenly felt that there was something in my eye…I’m not crying, you’re crying! I’m pretty sure though, that I do remember…I remember that after she came home from work, she worked more. She fed the animals, she got me to practice, she cooked dinner, she set the table (every night), she did dishes…and then she rested…if you can consider sitting down for a few minutes before bed as “resting.” I remember her weekends being filled with laundry, but still making time to be wherever I needed to be. I also remember always laughing at how tired she was and picking on her for not being able to stay up late to watch TV. I remember her waking up every single day before anyone else in the house. I remember her clinging to that hour of “alone time” every morning with her coffee and toast that she peeled the crust off to let the onlooking dogs have their morning snack. I remember. Dishes and Laundry. I keep saying those words over and over in my head….dishes and laundry. Thirty years later, she thinks her only priorities were dishes and laundry. She has no idea how much more she did. Dinner and Laundry. Dinner...And....Laundry.