I miss all the things my mother used to do for me. Even though she had to get up to a freezing house at five-thirty in winter to do it, she always had a hot breakfast on the table when we got up, usually hot biscuits, eggs, fresh milk, homemade jam or preserves, and either grits or oatmeal. Like most kids, I didn’t want it, but she insisted. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” After the whirlwind of getting the older kids on the bus, she’d wash, iron, clean, sew, and tend the garden. When she finished her own pleasant tasks, She’d do whatever extra things Daddy had lined up to help her pass the time, all between taking care of however many of the children might be babies or toddlers.
Laundry and ironing weren’t easy in the 1950s and 60s. Mother had a wringer washer and clothes line a lot of the time I was growing up. Daddy eventually replaced it with a barely functional used automatic washer after she had her fourth baby. It was a boon when it worked, a curse during its frequent breakdowns, leaving her to do diapers on a rub-board and wait for the neighbor repairman. Mr. J.T. had a real job and worked calls in when he could.
She boiled starch for our prissy ruffled, dresses, Daddy’s and my brother’s pants and shirts, sprinkled them with her coke bottle-capped sprinkler, then set herself to the task of ironing forty or fifty pieces of cotton clothing each week. One glorious Christmas, Grandma gave her a steam iron and changed her life forever.
By the time we got in from school, Mother had a big dinner underway: meat, either beans or peas, and another vegetable, potatoes, fried or mashed with gravy, and biscuits or cornbread. If there wasn’t dessert, Daddy complained. She couldn’t get by more than two nights without dessert of some type without trouble. Everything was homemade. I really miss all the wonderful things my mother did for me and didn’t appreciate at the time. Oh, she’s not dead. She’s alive and well living seven miles from me. She just won’t do these things anymore.