Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No Rest For the Weary

Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday
Sweep on Wednesday
Mend on Thursday
Clean on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday

I came across this list the other day and it made me wonder if we’re really better off now than we were 100 years ago when that was written. When I was a child, the weeks still had a rhythm like the one above, though with minor changes. Because she had a washing machine, and we apparently had a lot more clothes than the composer of that list, Mama washed twice a week. She did a white wash on Monday and a dark wash on Wednesday. She ironed two days a week, too, putting the flat linens through the mangle on one day, and smoothing the blouses, shirts, trousers, and dresses with a flat iron the next. On those days, the kitchen smelled of pressed sunshine and starch.

Sweeping was an everyday occurrence. There were four of us kids plus a dog and a cat and we all left evidence behind us. A thorough house cleaning took two days, not one, omitting the mending day, which was fine with Mama. She hated sewing and the thought of spending a whole day with needle and thread would have sent her screaming into the wilderness. Twice a year - in the fall, and again just before the snow melted - the house would be turned upside down and inside out. We kids would be pressed into service, moving furniture, hauling rugs outside to be beaten with brooms, polishing the silver that otherwise stayed wrapped in a cloth waiting for company to come to dinner.

Saturday was just one more baking day in the week. There were always cookies or brownies or cupcakes waiting for us when we got home from school but Saturdays were reserved for bread-making. The dough would rise in the big yellow bowl on the open door of the gas oven and Saturday supper would be accompanied by thick slices of warm bread slathered with butter. Sunday mornings were a bustle to get the roast and the pie in the oven and all of us to church, but Sunday afternoons stretched themselves out like long naps.

Nowadays, my verse looks like this: Work on Monday. Work on Tuesday. Work on Wednesday. Work on Thursday. Work on Friday. Chores on Saturday. Bake on Sunday. The pile of laundry is taller than I am, the breadbox is empty, the floor needs a good scrubbing, the grocery list is as long as my arm, and I can’t even find my iron.

Save me from progress! I am nostalgic for the old days when a verse could give order to the week and end with the wonderful word “rest.”

photo credit: Mandy's Photos


Vincent said...

So true, Pauline. But it looks as though Nature is reclaiming us, drawing us back to a way of life more suited to humans. Unfortunately, it will be painful for millions to adjust. In our household, being retired I am the one who does much of the household chores and hanging out clothes on the line is one of my favourites, together with lots of maintenance around the house (varnishing furniture, putting up hooks and shelves, plumbing, gardening). When I get work, it is mostly done at the computer, but to be honest, I resent that. Would prefer it to be done at a workbench or some such.

Yesterday watched again Antonioni's 1966 film Blowup, in which a fashionable photographer spends much time taking photos, developing them, enlarging sections, pinning them up, pacing back and forth; and it made me sad that it's all digital now. You sit down in front of a screen and somehow most things are so much less skilled; so reduced to keyboard and mouse operations.

But - this makes me sadder - our following generations may not know about how things were in our childhood; won't have experienced these joys of interacting with three-dimensional objects.

meggie said...

I am torn between the two. I found the older slower rhythym somehow comforting. Yet I am all for progress, with the computer being a wonderful access to other worlds & ideas.
It seems a shame the children of today, will never know they 'way it was'.

Paul said...

I bet that as a matter of fact and not only nostalgia, people have less down time today than when we were kids.

I think down time has real value and probably shouldn't be termed "down time."

Barbara said...

It was a very different and much more predictable world back then. My husband's family took the weekly planning even a step further, whereby having the same dinner menu every Monday and every other day of the week. I think that's just plain boring, but doing chores on a particular day was probably far more productive!

Flea said...

I remember growing up with a routine as well.
Monday - washday
Thursday - washday
Saturdays - Shopping and gardening
Sunday - Church and rest

Femin Susan said...

Absolutely fantastic post! Good job!
Great! Keep writing……. your routine work is really interesting..

dennis said...

Dennis likes the name ...Pauline... pretty.

Pauline said...

Don't be sad Vincent. Looks like the pendulum will have to swing back to the natural world and ways of doing things if we are all to survive.

I still employ some of the old ways, Meggie, but I must confess, I too, like the computer.

Paul - I certainly spend my time differently than did my mother although she had the same feeling that time hurried by.

Barbara - my mother had a list of what we ate when. She always made a Sunday roast, we had leftovers from it on Monday, middle of the week was almost always spaghetti and the weekend usually included beans and franks on Saturday. We deviated enough to keep us from dying of boredom and she was an excellent cook so things worked out well.

Java - bring back the day of rest!

Thanks FS - appreciate the compliments :)

Patting you on the head Dennis. Thanks ;)

goatman said...

My grandmother had embroidered a set of 7 tea towels, one for each day with a picture, indicating each day's topic.
We still have the set, although "Clean on Friday" is getting a bit raggedy!
Nice reminder of old timey structure.

Anonymous said...

No baking, little mending and damn all rest. Otherwise, no major changes!