Monday, April 24, 2017

*She Loved Her Daily Tasks*

My great-great aunt published a book about her family of origin--her parents, her maiden aunt who lived with them, and the eight children.  Each person has a chapter full of stories.  I read the stories over and over again as a child and enjoy revisiting them now as an adult. 

My great-great-grandmother--also named Pauline--was a farm wife in the rural South.  She was born during the Civil War. After the war the South was so devastated that they had to dig soil from under their smokehouse and soak it in water, then drain off the water simply to get *salt* to season their food.  

As an adult, she deftly cared for her family and parts of their farm. She baked six dozen biscuits every morning for breakfast, tended over two hundred chickens, and cooked over a wood stove. 

I smiled at this: "Today, one sometimes hears a housewife complain of the monotony of doing the same thing over and over.  If my mother ever found her work tiresome, she never gave any indication that this was so. In fact, I think she loved her daily tasks."  She was devoted to her large flock of chickens (250!), whose eggs she sold in order to help clothe the family.  She faithfully worked in her garden every year until the year she died--well into her 80s! 

She was also devoted to her husband and children.  She gave birth to her sixth child without any assistance because her husband had been taken ill and the midwife had a case of the "nerves" when she came and saw that the husband was not able to help.  My great-great-grandmother had that thirteen pound baby all alone on the dining room floor!

I love this description of her hospitality and her piety: "Mama had a heart as big as Papa's.  Cooking three meals a day on a wood stove in the hot summertime must have been a chore, but she never complained.  Neither did she complain when there were extra people to care for.  Certainly she opened her home and her heart to Grandmama and Aunt R. when they came.  And when Papa brought his niece, Mae, to live with us, Mama treated Mae as though she were her own daughter.  My oldest brother often said that Mama was a Puritan.  If that meant she was deeply religious and highly moral, he was right. One of the lovely memories I have of Mama is that of her sitting in her favorite rocker by her bed at night reading her Bible.  She never told off-color stories; certainly she never used what we have come to term as 'four-letter words.'" Although my great-great-aunt did note that sometimes her mother's speech was "tart"--like the time she expressed disdain towards a man who was not caring for his family. 

And finally, a story of how this "Puritan" lady had some spunk in her love for her husband: as he lay dying, the local merchant came to collect the bills. Usually the bills were collected and paid in the fall, after the harvest, but this was in the summer.  She assured the merchant that he'd get paid in the fall as always, but her husband was dying and must be left alone. (She and her children refused to put any stress on him, because he was ill.)  A few weeks later the same man returned.  She met him at the door with a shotgun and told him her husband was dying and could not be disturbed, that the merchant was trespassing, and if he ever set foot there again without an invitation, she'd shoot him!

The comic part was that the gun wasn't loaded and she had no idea how to use it.  But he never returned to bother them. 

"For you, O God, have heard my vows; 
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name....
So I will ever sing praises to your name
as I perform my vows day after day." 
 -from Psalm 61


  1. This is a great post, you are fortunate to have such precious records of your family. All those chickens!

  2. This makes me think of Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry. Have you read it?

    1. Did I ever respond to this, Sarah? I LOVE HANNAH COULTER!!