A Perfect Day
Grandma, at her start of day
Milked the cows and fed them hay
Slopped the pigs, saddled the mule
And got the children off to school.
Did the washing, mopped the floors
Shined the windows and did more chores
She cooked a dish of home dried fruit
Pressed her husband's Sunday suit.
Swept the parlor and made the beds
Baked a dozen loaves of bread
Split some firewood and lugged it in
Enough to fill the kitchen bin.
Cleaned the lamps and put in oil
Stewed some apples she thought would spoil
Cooked a supper that was delicious
And after that, washed all the dishes
Fed the animals and sprinkled some clothes
Mended a basket full of hose
Then opened the organ and began to play
'When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day'
Grandma's Wash Day
The following recipe for washing clothes was given to a new bride by an Alabama grandmother many years ago. It was found in an old scrapbook and is reprinted here exactly as it was originally hand-written, spelling errors and all. (By the way, the word "wrench" in this piece is our word for "rinse", but it was pronounced "wrench" in the south so I guess they spelled it the way it sounded.)
Build a fire in backyard to heat kettle of rain water.
Set tubs so smoke wont blow in eyes if wind is pert.
Shave one hole cake of lie soap in boilin water.
Sort things, make 3 piles – 1 pile white, 1 pile colored, 1 pile britches and rags.
To make starch, stir flour in cool water to smooth, then thin down with boiling water.
Take white things, rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, and boil, then rub colored don’t boil just wrench and starch.
Take things out of kettle with broom stick handle, then wrench, and starch.
Hang old rags on fence.
Spread tea towels on grass.
Pore wrench water in flower bed.
Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
Turn tubs upside down.
Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with hair combs.
Brew cup of tea, sit and rock a spell and count your blessings.
Now should this all sound a little far fetched to you, you should realize that these were just a few of the chores that women used to attend to. In some writings about Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards we read:
“Sarah, as mother to this large family, overseer of operations for farming, cooking, clothing, washing, cleaning, and admonishing, and much of the educating, was the embodiment of the Puritan ideal of industry. If she truly was, as Samuel Hopkins implies, “a deputy husband” or the de facto manager of the house and farm as well as the mother of eleven children, her accomplishments were monumental.” George Marsden
“She took almost the whole direction of the temporal affairs of the family, without doors and within, managing them with great wisdom and prudence, as well as cheerfulness.” Samuel Hopkins
There was an occasion when Jonathan interrupted his studying to ask if it wasn't time that the hay was harvested. Sarah told him that it had already been done (by herself and perhaps several of the children) two weeks earlier and that it was stacked in the barn.
My mouth is stopped! What a lesson about feeling overwhelmed and complaining about the little that I actually do. Time to count my blessings - one of which is the privilege of having meaningful work to do, and to do it...