HG: Annie Payne Column February 28, 2009
Coming to appreciate life’s finer things, like aprons and clotheslines
My mom celebrated her umpteenth birthday this week. She is a better woman than me in every way imaginable.
Her house is always cleaner than mine and not because she is a retiree. She had a clean home even when her four children lived with her.
She works harder, cooks better, and definitely minds her manners better than I do.
My mother’s and grandmother’s generation took pride in homemaking, child-rearing, and social graces. They passed on their wisdom and habits of making house a home to their progeny, but some of it got swept under the rug to be rediscovered later by the modern homemaker.
MOM WORE AN APRON
Our mothers and grandmothers probably owned several aprons.
Aprons not only protected their dress, but they also were used as pot holders, dust rags, egg collectors and to wipe tiny tears.
I wasn’t an apron-wearer until a few years ago when I received one as a gift. Once I had it, I couldn’t believe I lived that long without it.
Since then I have acquired my signature black and white floral apron that has made guest appearances with some of my articles.
I see it as a uniform for my job as a happy housewife. Whenever I tie on my apron, with my clothes protected from food and dirt, I feel ready to work.
MOM DID THE GROCERY SHOPPING ONCE A WEEK
Mom went to the grocery store once a week with a list and coupons and bought everything she needed for several family meals.
We rarely went out to dinner. We had a weekly menu posted on the pantry door.
She made the meal. The kids set the table and cleaned the kitchen after dinner.
Busy modern mommies find themselves in the grocery store sometimes multiple times in a week. In this era of the superstore, it’s not unusual to come home with bags and bags of impulse buys from China along with the food items needed to feed the family.
Unlike her modern daughter, who eats at McDonald’s more often than she would like to confess, Mom never had a Rubbermaid box full of Happy Meal toys.
In fact, I don’t remember Mom ever having the need to store things in plastic bins. We just didn’t collect that much stuff.
MOM HAD A GARDEN
The garden has always been a joint project with my mom and dad.
Dad prepares the beds and sows the seeds. Mom usually does the weeding and harvesting.
They also have one peach tree that provided us with canned and frozen peaches for the whole year.
I have three garden boxes I plan on filling. In the current economic climate, I think there will be many more of us who will be greening our thumbs in our backyards this year.
MOM HAD A LAUNDRY DAY AND USED A CLOTHESLINE
Her children would wake up in the morning to find several loads of laundry sorted on the family room floor.
By the time we came home from school, all the loads were washed, dried, folded and stacked neatly into piles on the couch according to their owner, ready to for us to put them away.
Mom didn’t have a front loading washer or super capacity dryer, but she had a clothesline to keep the loads moving when the dryer was already in use. And there was Phil Donahue and
“The Waltons” re-runs to keep her company as she folded.
I’ve just recently rediscovered the wisdom and convenience of a clothesline. I installed a retractable one on my back patio and use it every day during the warm months, especially during the summer, so not to let wet beach towels stagnate while waiting for their turn in the wash.
I have a friend that was so anxious to have a clothesline installed at her new home that she hired a welder to make the posts, and then she dug the 3-foot holes and mixed and poured the cement herself.
Now, that’s a “get ’er done” attitude that our mothers and grandmothers would be proud of!
MOM SEWED OUR PROM DRESSES
Sewing, knitting, crocheting and quilting are some of the skills of previous generations that are slowly and regrettably becoming a lost art.
There are many reasons for this, the aforementioned superstore one of them, but whatever the reasons, it’s certainly not a good thing.
Fortunate are the women who despite the cost and time commitment still continue the craft.
My mom sewed several dresses for her girls over the years. When I was a sophomore in high school, she made me a dress for the homecoming dance, and then we redesigned the same dress later in the school year for prom.
The work and skill it took to make that gown, I couldn’t replicate today.
I have enough knowledge of my sewing machine to sew a straight stitch, which is enough to make curtains. But if my daughter, “Mini Me,” ever asked me to make her a dress, it would have about as much style as a tube sock.
MOM WAS A MOTHER FIRST, A FRIEND SECOND
I think our moms and grandmas would agree that parents today are too easy on their kids.
Bad behavior is too often met with punishments that go unenforced or no punishment at all.
My mom had the respect of her kids because she lived respectably. She taught us to show gratitude and was quick to correct us when needed.
Now, she has earned her right to be the doting pushover of a grandma she is to my kids.
MOM TAUGHT US TO WHISPER IN THE LIBRARY
Among the many ways in which I struggle to emulate in my mother, this is one lesson I have been able to teach my kids.
Although, I don’t think every mother has done the same. It seems of late we have been the only ones whispering in the library.
My kids have become convinced it’s another one of those silly rules I’ve made up, such as wearing matching socks or always packing a napkin in a lunch box.
MOM TAUGHT US TO OFFER
A CHAIR TO A LADY
My mom taught her son to offer his chair to a lady, no matter her age. And she taught her daughters to offer our chair to a lady who is our elder or in need.
I’ve taken my share of rides on public transportation and have cheerfully offered up my own seat, knowing it would make my mom proud.
How disappointed I was recently at a sporting event when two (ahem) gentlemen didn’t give my mother the same consideration. I hope they’ve gotten over the stink-eye I gave them.
GRANDMA ALWAYS HAD FOOD
ON HAND TO OFFER GUESTS
I would be remiss not to mention my grandma.
We always knew that there was food to be had at grandma’s house. She always had some sort of baked goods on hand for whoever might stop by. Her guests never left hungry.
She also kept a candy dish full of Jolly Ranchers. The watermelon flavor still reminds me of her.
By the time my own umpteenth birthday comes around, it is hoped that my daughters and granddaughters in turn will be inspired to follow the wisdom and example I have learned from the women of my mom’s and grandma’s generations.
Even after all these years, Mother still knows best.
For more on an unpredictable variety of other topics, visit Annie Payne’s “Anniethology” blog online at Anniethology.blogspot.