Mama Remembered: The Washing

 

Another excerpt from Mama’s book, I Remember:

When I was 16 we lived on a farm north of Chadwick, Missouri. 

Dad came home from buying groceries one day and told me the grocer’s wife had asked if Mom or I would like to do some washing for her.  He told her Mom wasn’t well, but he would ask me.  I said I would, and showed up at her house at 8 o’clock the next morning.  She took me to an empty room that had piles of dirty clothes all over it.  I neer saw so many dirty clothes in my life.  On a bench in the middle of the room stood a wash tub and wash board.  I washed clothes for two days.  I don’t know when I have ever been more tired.  At the end of the two days when I finished, she asked me if I wanted to put my pay on our grocery bill or did I want it in cash.  I told her I wanted the cash and she gave me $3.00. 

I probably should have put it on the bill, but I was just a kid and I had done an awful lot of washing for that $3.00.

Several things strike me about this story from Mama’s book.  One is that the amount of laundry may have looked especially huge to Mama because her family was poor, so they probably had very few clothes. 

This story also reminds me that Mama was never afraid of hard work, and apparently she was that way all her life.  But then, when you were as poor as her family was, I don’t think anyone in the family probably had the opportunity to be lazy — they all had to work hard just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

And finally it strikes me that this kind of childhood was wonderful preparation for her adult life.  Nothing life threw at Mama as an adult really rocked her, because of her hard-scrabble childhood.

8 Responses to Mama Remembered: The Washing

  1. C. Beth says:

    WOW. That does sound like an awful lot of work for $3!! I know $3 wasn’t worth nearly as much then, but still…do you think that was a fair price or not?

  2. Hilary says:

    Times sure were different back then. I can’t believe I whined to myself about my impending 3 loads of laundry this morning. As always, I love reading your Mama’s tales.

  3. Barb says:

    I hear from Mom that she had one dress for school, and they would wash it each night so that it was ready the next. It is hard for me to image the hard times that they went thru…1920s, etc., but it certainly made them tough!

    Pls call me if there is a get-together for the post-reunion mtg. …I can’t count on getting a msg @ work. Thx

  4. Margo says:

    Thank you for the reminder that it is possible to make it through hard times and that God does truly “help those who help themselves.” Wonderful thumbnail sketch of your mother, I’m glad you shared it.

  5. Sandra says:

    Beth — I know that doesn’t seem like much to us, but I’m guessing that was pretty good pay for those two days work back then. btw, I was a little surprised when I re-read this when I was going to post it — because she took the money instead of putting it on the family’s grocery bill. But Mama was always a generous person, so I absolutely believe, even though she took the cash, most of it probably went to their household needs. I’m guessing she just liked the idea of having the money she had earned in her own hands for a little while.

    Thank you, Hilary. It does put our own laundry in perspective, doesn’t it. 🙂

    Barb — Overall, I really do think it made them better, more responsible people that they grew up having to earn whatever they wanted.

    Margo — When I read Mama’s stories they are always reminders to me of how hard she worked to make sure her children had an easier, more secure life than she had!

  6. C says:

    I love these stories. Please tell us more. I agree with you: hard as these times were, they seemed to craft more resilience than we see now. C

  7. lesley says:

    I remember the hard times too, like when my Dad ran away from home because he spilt ink on the new carpet…he was so sorry & didn’t know how to tell his Mum…awww

  8. Sandra says:

    C — Under the Categories in my sidebar, there is one “Mama Remembered” where there are a few more of these, and I’ll be doing a new one ever so often. I’m so glad you enjoy these. Mama would LOVE it that new people are reading her stories. 🙂

    Oh, Lesley — That brings tears to my eyes. I’m sure when times were tough, everything was prescious, and a moment of inattention or clumsiness by a child was probably a much bigger deal than in our “plentiful” society now.

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