Gender roles at the time were still defined, so once Gaylen was old enough to work outside, I stayed inside and he worked on outside chores. Women’s work was expected of the girls. My brothers learned how to take care of domestic duties years later when they raised their own families.
I washed a lot of dishes as a girl. Like many things that do not change over time, I prefer not to dry dishes to this day. I piled them as high as I could in the plastic drain. Dad and the boys bounced the kitchen floor on purpose to see who could knock the top dishes off, where I’d piled plastic or aluminum on top, never glass. I hid the iron skillet underneath a lilac bush where the dogs and cats could lick it clean so I wouldn’t have to scour it.
For some odd reason, one of the things I could not master as a child was lighting a match. My fear meant I couldn’t burn the trash. I remember an incident when Dad’s impatient anger boiled through his bowed body as he leaned over me at the burn barrel. I don’t remember a spanking at the time, but I’m sure I got a whipping because of his blazing ire. By the time I was a teen I burned trash with a sense of accomplishment.
The first stove I remember was a combination stove that burned wood on the left side and gas on the right. I remember lifting the lid and putting corncobs in the left side, but when it came time for me to learn to use a stove for cooking, we had natural gas. Mom was a-pinch-of-this and a-handful-of-that kind of cook. She said “the lumps will bake out” when she referred to cake batter, but I soon learned better. Simple meals of meat, usually fried in lard and butter, potatoes, a vegetable, and bread made up a meal on the farm. Grilled cheese sandwiches and Mom’s homemade tomato soup were always a treat. What an adjustment when I reached adulthood, cooking for two when I had learned how to cook for nine. I’m still not much interested in cooking, the basics get me by.
Another thing I remember is the gigantic oval brown braided rug that covered the beige linoleum tile in front of the brown Naugahyde davenport. I vacuumed the rug with an Electrolux canister vacuum. Every so often Mom and I rolled it up and slung it over the clothesline. Then I beat it with the broom until no more dust billowed out.