It's all in a day's work, part two
Editor’s note: This is the final column in a two-part series that chronicles one of the author’s favorite days as a mother.
By MARY ZACHMEYER
August 1960, New London
I run downstairs to do another load of washing. Jimmy rises from the dead and is wrapped in a blanket looking like Chief Keokuk with his eyes glued to the television. A side ache begins to take over my body. . .probably from the missing three steps.
Upstairs again, I sit down to balance the bank statement which has been ignored for three months. Indubitably, it will balance; I didn’t get A’s in math for nothing. My figures belong in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not because the bank says we have $1300 more than our checkbook shows. Wow! Illinois lottery at the ole homestead. Could this be true? I hope it isn’t the reverse. It will have to wait until I find the calculator.
Cake done, but not yet cooled, I sprinkle powdered sugar on and gather recycled candles. I’m not my grandmother’s granddaughter for nothing; I know how to recycle. After arranging them in a fantastic design known only to God and me, I run back downstairs to finish the laundry.
On my way back, I grab some suitcases for our weekend in Chicago. Whew, I wonder if it is all worth it. About now, I calculate if I were paid a dollar a step, I’d earn $104.00. I convince myself that this is why I have such a youthful figure. (Cough, cough.)
As I turn the corner to go down the hallway to pack suitcases, I spy Pete’s cake. The three-inch candles are now melting, half-inch stubs. “Nothing like eating wax with a slice of cake,” I scold myself. Mother always says: Haste makes waste. But I was only trying to be efficient and catch up on my list. Sadly, there are no more candles. Somehow I will convince the family that I did it on purpose just to see if they would notice anything unique about the cake.
My day returns to sanity with the arrival of a correspondence course in the mail from the University of Iowa. After a few moments of reading, I begin the packing for four people. My mind must be on the skunk’s food in the kitchen because I forget to pack pajamas, underwear, and a second change of clothing for one of the kids. One day later we will discover my blunder. So what else is new? No boredom around my house.
I fix a casserole for the kids for supper and a snack for hubby and me to eat in the car as we drive to an appointment in Burlington. Wearily I change into fresh clothes for the meeting. Four o’clock comes and goes. No husband.
By four-thirty I accept we will not make the meeting, so I call long distance to cancel it. An hour later, in saunters my never forgetful, always prompt husband. Does he remember we have an appointment? Who...him? Of course not.
In the 1960’s, we weren’t encouraged to make a choice between marriage and a career. My mother worked out of the home because she had to, but my grandmother raised me. So, staying home was most familiar to me. I wanted my children to have what I didn’t have as a child.
Looking back on those tough years of rearing children and as I lay my head on the pillow each night, I realize now all the careers I encompassed that August day: chef, cake decorator, maid, animal keeper, nurse, secretary, banker, accountant, community volunteer, answering service, dress designer, dentist, beautician, organizer, klutz, animal lover, diplomat, unsung heroine, laundress, private citizen keeping up with the times, time keeper and scheduler, environmentalist, part-time student, mother and wife. Mostly, I just tried to be the best person and best mom that I could be. Nowadays, women work outside the home, too. I don’t know how they do it. Being a mom is the best job in the world and the hardest.
Until next time.