Childhood Chores

Growing up in my family was an interesting endeavor, I am the second oldest of 6 which means that I had a lot of responsibility at a young age.  I can’t tell you the number of times I stuck my finger on those blasted diaper pins as I changed a baby diaper, or how many times I accidentally stuck the baby with that pin when they moved unexpectedly.  I spent a large majority of my childhood in the seventies, right around the time when women’s lib was just starting.  That means that my mom was one of the first moms in my home town that went out and got a job.

Looking back, I know that she really didn’t have a choice.  I am sure it was difficult to feed and clothe 6 children back then.  But when she started working so did we.  My step-dad created a chore schedule that the three oldest shared.  I still to this day don’t think that the youngest three ever had to do a chore while I was living at home.  Since there were three of us older kids the chores were broken down into three categories, and each category lasted for a week switching out on Sunday.   Week 1: Cooking; Week 2:  Dishes/Laundry; Week 3:  Animals/Garden

Let me tell you how these weeks were broken down.

Week 1:  Cooking – On the Friday before we would start we had to create a shopping list and plan the weekly menu which included breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Then on Saturday, we all (as in all 8 of us) went on a shopping spree at the Bag & Save in a town 40 miles away from our home town.  We found really creative ways to keep ice cream frozen and cold things cold on the long drive home.  We had to plan meals for the entire family so we learned how to make large meals.  Sometimes these meals had to be extra large so that we could eat them again the next day.   I still don’t like to eat chili-mac, just the name gives me the yucks.  We learned how to use a pressure cooker really well and did a lot of deep fried things.  This was the favorite week for all of us, at least it was for me.  It was easy to do all the cooking and none of the cleaning and that was all we had to do that week.  It was even better during the school year since we only had to plan breakfast and dinner.  I still have trouble making a small meal, so I am so glad I was blessed with a husband that loves to cook.

Week 2:  Dishes/Laundry – This was the week we all dreaded.  We had to wash and dry everything in both categories during this week.  With 8 people dirtying up everything it was a never ending job and felt like a thankless task.  I have scars on my hands from the many broken glasses or sharp knives that were in that yucky dish water.  Of course this was before dishwashers became really popular so everything was done by hand.  And the clothes were never ending.  It didn’t help that nine times out of ten the drier was broken and we would have to hang the clothes out on the clothes line even during the winter.   I don’t know what I enjoyed more the smell of freshly wind dried summer clothes or going out to see if the clothes were frozen stiff and hearing the crackle as they were bent.  Sometimes in the winter, depending on how cold it was, it took a couple days for the clothes to dry outside.  This was always fun if we were getting short on things to wear.  To this day I still dislike doing both of those chores.   I procrastinate as long as possible with both.  Unfortunately I like to eat on clean dishes and wear clean clothes so my procrastination doesn’t last as long as I would like for it too.  But sometimes it last just long enough that my husband will step in and do that much dreaded chore.  I can’t tell you how thankful I am for this wonderful man; and I will fully admit I take advantage of his generosity much too often.

Week 3:  Animals/Garden – This was a fun week right up there with cooking – at least it was for me most of the time.  During this week we had to feed the farm animals and take care of the garden.  We had the usual farm animals – chickens, pigs, cows and goats.  Okay I should say we had lots of chickens, 2 pigs that had babies every once in a while, 2 cows and 1 goat.  The chickens gave us all the eggs we would ever need.  The two roosters were named Charlie and Blackie – the hens didn’t get names, the cows were named Bessie and Baby, the goat was named Nanny, and I can’t remember the names of the pigs, except for one of the babies that we named Petunia.  I have some great stories about these animals and will tell them in a later post.  We also had dogs and cats but for some reason they were not included in this chore, if the pet was yours you were responsible for it. The garden was more than a garden, it was a little over an acre.  For that chore we had to use the rototiller, create rows, choose the seeds that we wanted to plant, plant them, water them, weed them and harvest them.  We usually chose the same seeds every year since we knew what it took to grow them.  I still remember picking and eating sweet peas straight off the vine or plucking a radish right out of the earth, shaking off the dirt and eating it right there hidden behind the rows of corn.  There is nothing like freshly grown vegetables to tempt the taste buds.  I grew up in New Mexico the land of the rattle snake and I cannot remember ever seeing a snake on our property.  I am so glad I never saw one in the garden since I ran around barefoot all the time.  There is nothing like the feel of freshly tilled soil between the toes.

All these chores stopped the minute my mom and step-dad divorced.  The only animals we had left were the chickens and we still got eggs from them for a while until the last chicken died.  But I can remember going out to the place where we once had the garden and finding wild onions.  I left there the day after I graduated high school and moved in with my grandparents until I went active duty in the Air Force a couple months later.  My family moved away to a different state that same day.  The land has sat empty for 30 years.  I wonder if there are still wild onions there.


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