Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When You Were Small - The Chores!

This is the seventh post in the 'When You Were Small' series, and I have become very fond of them.  Firstly, I enjoy the personal experience of looking back and trying to remember things like -Who was your first best friend? At age did you fall in love?  Favourite Toy Memory? Favourite Memory? What did you dream about being when you were a little girl/boy? - I guess the list is as long as childhood. 

But the second thing I have become very fond of in relation to these posts, are the memories that many others share.  I find I am like a little child in a sweetshop when I see another new comment has come in.  It sort of reminds me of the excitement I feel when I get my hands on a new book, and I'm not fully sure what adventure, story, emotion, I am about to experience.  Like my own memories, some stories are funny, some sad, some a mix of both, but all of them have one essential ingredient in common, they are real.  Over the last few weeks reading these memories from all parts of the world, from different age groups, backgrounds, male or female, I've discovered another interesting gem, which is, we are all more alike than at first glance you might think.

So, apologies for the long introduction, but I felt the above needed to be said.  Today's question, is this one:-

When you were small, what was the best or the worst (or both), chore you were given to do.  I knew mine straight up, and in a way it was, the best and the worst.

As some of you might have read before, I grew up in a flat, so we had no back garden or front garden, but we did manage to have a step!  Okay, let me explain, outside each front door, there was a concrete step.  I suppose the step was the first thing people saw when they came to visit.  So having a clean step was a mighty important thing to have.  With this in mind, my chore was to clean the step.

Out I'd go with my metal bucket filled with soapy water and a hard steel brush, and I would scrub.  In the scrubbing came the joy, all those magical suds created patterns, patterns which I could change depending on the direction or the size of the swing.  I made lines up and down, across and over.  I made circles, and circles within circles.  The more I brushed, the more suds I would create.  Rivers of them would go streaming down to the doorways of other flats, my feet, my clothes, would get soaked, but it was such fun. 

The bad bit, and it wasn't really all that bad, was when the water went completely cold, because I knew it was nearly over, and the time had come to wash away all the lovely circles, lines, suds, and the white wonder would disappear to concrete grey again.

At the end of it all, my Mother, who was  the one designating the chores, had a clean step, and I had the wrinkled skin of an old women from hands being in the water too long! 

When I think about the step, strangely enough, I think about my Mother.  I think the step for her, was a small piece of something to be proud of in an otherwise very dismal place.  Now I know you might think that strange, but that's the way I feel about it. 

Seeing as how the step has brought back thoughts of my Mother, I have put at the end of this post, a very short poem called 'My Mothers Hands'.  To explain a little, the opening is a memory of when she would hold my hand on the way home from school, her front door keys in them, hurt, because she held my hand so tight.  The final part deals with her battle with diabetes and dementia near the end of her life, and the two angels, are the two children she lost as babies after I was born.  I hope you enjoy it.

My Mothers Hands

Her hands held little fingers with cold front door keys,
Wrapped a red coat over,
Protecting me from more than rain.
Pushed prams, peeled spuds,
No lady hands, but lady owned.
Skin like alabaster, soft not weak,
Hands of pain, hands of an optimistic soul.
Sprouting blood bubbles in pin pricked old age,
Folded quietly in distant melancholy,
Stolen by her minds disease.
In death as in life,
Angels drawn.



  1. this really touched my heart! wonderful if sad memories. Thankyou!

  2. So moving, this transcends art. A lovely post.

  3. Lovely memories and such a beautiful poem.

    My main objective was always to get out of doing chores! :-) But like you I grew up in a flat, though it was a ground floor one and we had a little bit of earth outside the kitchen window in which my Mother used to grow mint. I remember going to pick the mint to bring in for her to make mint sauce for our sunday dinner. :-)

  4. Thank you so much Gerry & Dave. I haven't planned on it being such a long post, but I really appreciate that you both connected to it. X

  5. Oh gosh Susannah, what a great memory. The idea of picking mint, the smell, the touch, the great joy from a small piece of earth out front, to help feed and nurture a family. Thank you, and I mean that.

  6. i had forgotten all about women scrubbing steps, my gran used to do it. (never saw a bloke scrubbing a step!)
    The chore i hated, even though i never had to do it myself was washing day, out would come the twin tub, it seemed to put mum in a bad mood and would take all day. but mostly it was the smell, twin tub washers created a smell of their own, not the nastiest smell but it seemed to generate a depressive dank atmosphere.

  7. As usual Louise, I am lost for words here. The step....your mother...the poem...all are beautiful.

    I love learning more about writing and honestly, your blog helps me no end.


  8. Ah yes riggerscam - but did your twin tub shake? I used to sit on top of ours and have such a laugh! How many children did your poor Mom have to wash for?

  9. Thanks Michelle - Really appreciated. Glad you find the blog helpful, I know I certainly find your advice invaluable!

  10. Shake! it used to wander round the kitchen, that pipe you had to hook over the edge of the sink would be at full stretch. washing for four kids and dad.

  11. Gosh I forgot all about the pipe over the sink!! The way it would splurt out water like a crazy thing!

  12. gorgeous poem louise, really touching.. my fave chore was tidying my room,i used to love moving things around, deciding where each thing belongs... least favourite piece of housework was hoovering the stairs, think that's why I like my wooden ones now!

  13. Ah Louise u had me tearing up before I even started the poem. As I said before those kind of memories always remind me of the many ppl Ive cared for who have now past. I don't remember any chores my mum was/is a control freak so I always looked over her shoulder wanting to take my turn but it never came. I remained the watcher. You would think that would result in me growing up lazy but it had the exact opposite effect. By age 9/10 I was washing my own clothes, 12yrs I wall papered my bedroom. I would clean, cook, tidy without be asked or shown. I grew up VERY independent never asked for help, a good & bad thing. Im now a carbon copy of my mum can't share my chores etc. I have to do them so I know there done correctly. I do try to teach my kids to be independent but I think having myself & trev (my opposite) has given them a better form of independence. I don't blame my mum for who I am it
    was only me and her and I had no other influences in my life. She did the best she could with the parenting skills she had been given. Barring my OCD!! I didn't turn out too bad.

  14. Niamh, I can just see you moving all the bits and bobs about like it was a play dolls house or something. I hate hoovering, so I am with you there!LOL

    Tattoodevil - it is nuts the way we turn out just like our mothers - genes I think more than influence at times. And yes, you turned out great! X

  15. Louise this post is beautiful. Your poem (and knowing how personal it was to you) brought tears to my eyes. :-)

    I'm not sure I had a favorite chore, but I'd have to say the least favorite was taking care of the chickens--and I'm sure you can guess as to why.

  16. In my house my sisters and I loved to sing pop songs while doing dishes, and occasionally hymns we thought we were particularly good at. Even after my mother bought a dishwasher we still washed dishes in the sink and sang. It was sometimes the only time we got along, hah!

    Beautiful poem, Louise.

  17. Thanks Krystal - And if I ever had an inclination to put my hand under a chicken - after your tale - deffo wud never do it!

  18. That poem gave me lovely chills...and memories, Louise. Beautifully done.
    Picking up the dog poop off the front lawn. Yea, definitely that. Ours was a big dog, so the piles were too. It had to be done with a large, unwieldy shovel. And because our house was on a hillside, the entire neighborhood got to watch. Odious in every way.

  19. Ah skepperson - neraly missed u there! Great chore memory - one of d best so far!

  20. Do you know what cynthia? You are the first girl I've heard of to get the job of cleaning up the dog poop! It was my hubbies chore as well, and he still has to do it!!!

  21. I loved the introduction:) And thats a beautiful poem, esp the sentence - sprouting blood bubbles in pin pricked old age -
    Okay -
    my least favorite chore was cleaning the chimney, I can still taste the soot, I'd have to climb right in, and they wouldnt let me out till supper time...

    ah no, not really:)

    I didnt like hoovering, especially the stairs because the hoover was really heavy, and for some reason I had to do it backwards - but I loved tidying my room, arranging records, books, clothes, turning my smash hits posters around (double sided posters - wow!) and getting notions:)

  22. Ah god Niamh you got me going there - I am so blinkin gullible!! Your chore story sounds very like Niamh B - maybe it's a Niamh thing!!!

  23. I never thought of chores as "chores" until I was older and realized the value of time and hard work. Thank you so much for the poem "My Mother's Hands" and oh, no need to apologize for the long intro, I loved it!

    Hope you don't mind me sharing a poem a wrote regarding my dad...

    Ode to My Father
    by W Mark Dendy on Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 12:30pm

    Wallace Lafayette Dendy

    May 5, 1922 – March 19, 1991

    by W. Mark Dendy

    Daddy we called him
    No, not pops
    He made us simple toys
    Like slingshots and tops.

    He cared for his three kids
    Each one in a different way
    He believed being a good father
    Was most important every day.

    It's been twenty years now
    Since my father has passed
    But the lessons he taught me
    Still remain steadfast.

    And through his love I learned
    Many lessons, not just one
    Especially how to be
    A better husband, father, and son.

    Here is a link to the poem with a picture of Daddy and his 3 children.

  24. Thanks Mark - Your poem is really lovely!

  25. I can totally relate to how much the step meant to your mother. I remember my gran's house. It was tiny but at one time about 12 people lived in it. And she was so house proud. Not only did she clean the step like you did, she also swept the tiny bit of footpath in front of the house endlessly. Although, that might just have been for the opportunity to gossip with the neighbours passing by :-)

  26. Ah Derek - a woman's work is never done!


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