Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mother, Shotguns and Pink Underwear (Part 1)

Your recent addition to the website showing the evolution of the homestead from a dugout to the brick home sure prompted a lot of memories.  Since I had written one about my Dad’s sense of humor I feel it would only be fair to share a memory of my Mother, your Grandmother. 

Mother’s sense of humor was not nearly as well defined as Dad’s.  I always thought she felt the need to be the more serious one of the family.  Since 4 out of the seven kids she raised all managed to be class clowns of a sort, I guess she was right.  Seriousness was needed pretty regularly.

She was widowed with three young children as a result of WWII.  A young woman with three small children and no readily marketable skills must have had a very difficult time back in those years.  That’s probably when she became serious.    

However, at the end of the war my Father, who was on the same island in the Philippines where her first husband was killed, came to pay his respects to her.  They had known each other since childhood.  In fact one of Dad’s best friends was Mother’s younger brother.  One thing led to another and they were married in 1946.  Four more children came into the family as a result of that marriage.   How lucky we all were.  

At Mother’s funeral one of our cousins read from the Book of Proverbs verses 10-31 describing a good wife and mother.  No better eulogy could have been offered for her.  She was proud of the fact that all of her children were well fed and clothed.  That meant regular baths and clean underwear.  I suppose most folks now think, “of course that means regular baths and clean underwear.”  But growing up on a farm in a family of seven kids without automatic washers and dryers, and in the early years not even an indoor bathroom, it was quite a task.  It was made doubly hard if you happened to live close to muddy creeks and rivers.  I think her work load did a lot to explain the family joke among my siblings about the difference in Mother and Dad’s first response to an injury.   Dad wanted to know if it required a trip to the doctor, possibly stitches and lost labor for whatever crop he was tending.   Mother’s first response was always “You better not have ruined those new Levis,” or “don’t you dare bleed on that new shirt.” 

That doesn’t mean she had no concern for the injury, but raising seven children on a farm greatly increased her tolerance for childhood mishaps.  When my daughter (Mrs. HH) was growing up, the injury that might cause my own wife to call an ambulance, medivac chopper, and/or the National Guard would not even make it into my Mother’s weekly update with all the church ladies on Sunday.  In later years, responding to our teasing about that attitude, Mom and Dad said “We knew you would heal up.  We had to buy new clothes”.

Since our farm had both a creek and small river running through it, I became very popular with local boys during the spring time when the creek and river was flowing well and during hunting season when the ducks wintered along the river.  In the summer time the common refrain of, “you better not go swimming in that clean underwear,” followed my friends and me out the door every time we headed to the river. 

The average person might not realize it, but muddy water and new HANES underwear do not mix well.   Most of the time her efforts to get the muddy stains out resulted in the white becoming pink.  Not a good color for changing in the locker room at school.  The summer time solution was easy: take them off.  The river was isolated and that was the normal method of swimming.  It’s not that the guys did not have swimming suits, but they were reserved for the rare time when we went swimming in town at the local swimming pool.  Besides, you couldn’t leave the house with your swimming suit every time you decided to take a swim.  It was a dead giveaway for your real intentions instead of whatever half truth you had told the parents while promising to be back in time for Sunday evening church. 

Sunday morning church in rural areas was sort of a great child swapping time.  It was a rare Sunday lunch when all the children at any household matched the parents.  It was when you got to play with other kids until time for Sunday evening services and the kid shuffle was performed in reverse.  Looking back, I think it is how we were all bribed to come back for Sunday evening services.  We had to get our brothers and sisters back.
(Part 2 of Dad’s guest post: The Duck Hunt, coming soon.  Thanks Dad!)

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