Time for remembering

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Dec 31, 2020

"To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the sun...and for every work." — Eccles:3.1,17

Life, work and play were self-regulated on the farm. There was no boss checking his watch to see if you got to the barn for milking at the same stroke of the clock every morning, no time clock to punch in before you started the wood fire in the Clarion in preparation for breakfast. But the cows got milked in time every morning and by the time Grampa Roy was back to pour the fresh warm milk into the separator in the corner of the cook room (kitchen), the cook room was cozy-warm and filled with the smell and sound of sizzling bacon or ham or pork chops.

Whether your portion was woman’s work or man's work, you knew what had to be done and you knew that if you didn't get it done in time, it would pile up and run over you. You were your own boss, ran your own schedule and if you were good at it, things hummed along at a smooth pace, allowing for "time to laugh...and time to dance."

Grammie and Grampa Tucker were good at self-regulation and the seasons on the farm all had their allotted tasks. There were the tasks belonging to the seasons; planting, harvesting, canning, haying, and the daily tasks to be done each day, and then there was a special task that was assigned its own day of the week.

For the women, there was the cooking, washing dishes, sweeping the floor and such things that were done every day, but there was one extra task, done weekly, that was always done on the same day every week. This is how order was kept, assuring that nothing got ahead of itself, or you.

Monday was wash day. Grammie had a double washstand that consisted of two big galvanized washtubs set on a wooden frame with a ringer mounted in between. The tubs were filled with hot water from the stove's copper-lined water tank. You scrubbed the clothes on a washboard in one tub and ran them through the wringer into the second tub for the first rinse, being careful to fold buttons in before putting them through the wringer or you would have button-bullets shooting through the kitchen.

Tuesday was ironing day. That made sense. Our irons were for-real flatirons. Made out of cast iron, each one was a different thickness, giving each a different weight which you used in accordance with the kind of material you were ironing. Some had detachable wooden handles that engaged or disengaged by means of a spring mechanism.

You only needed one handle, which you clicked on and off the irons that were on the stove top, as you exchanged them for a different size or a hotter iron. I was allowed, as a special task, to iron the handkerchiefs and napkins. I didn't realize it was work. I thought it was a great trust that Grammie thought I could iron these things, like a grown-up, without scorching them. Grammie and Grampa had a way of making work a fun thing to do.

Wednesday's task was mending. Anything with a missing a button or otherwise in need of repair discovered on wash or iron day was put in the "mending basket." I was pretty good at buttons and easy mending, but I never mastered darning like Grammie.

I can't, for the life of me, remember what Thursday's special work was. Friday was dusting and scrubbing floors. My job was to dust the furniture, being extra careful to get all the dust around the rungs of the wooden chairs. That was one chore even Grammie couldn't fool me into thinking was fun.

Friday was also churning day. Grampa oversaw this. He had a big barrel churn with a crank handle. It had a small glass window so's you could tell when the butter was done; i.e., sufficiently separated from the buttermilk. It took a lot of churning, but I was only "allowed" to help if I first got my kitchen chores done. Grampa had me hoodwinked on that. I thought it was a privilege, not a chore.

Saturday was the best day. Baking day. Doughnuts and gingerbread, pies and molasses cookies day and brown-bread day. The beans were set to soaking the night before, with real meaty salt pork like you don't see much nowadays. And every Saturday night the table was set with baked beans, molasses, and brown bread — dark and rich. Slathered with Grammie's sweet butter that sank down through, it was a treat to be savored.

And Saturday night was the time for dancing. Indeed, Grampa and Grammie used to have Saturday night “Barn Dances” on the farm. Grampa played the fiddle. He could play a mean "Turkey in the Straw" while jumping up and clicking his heels to the side. Grammie played her pump organ. Grampa made 5 gallons of hand-cranked ice cream, half vanilla and half chocolate. Grammie made cookies, sugar and molasses. It was another income source as well as a good time with friends and neighbors.

And even though I'm an old great-granny who no longer has to go out to a job, that doesn't translate into more time to get everything done. My get-up-and-go got up and went some time ago. I no longer have the vim and vigor of my younger years and there's just me and my dog to do everything — and he's a shirker when it comes to chores. So I am, essentially, half a person in a two-person world, when it comes to doing everything. There's only so much time.

But I save time for remembering.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

 

 

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