Winding back the hands of time, I see my mom in the kitchen on a Saturday morning with a large wash tub on the table, close to the sink. It’s cold in the kitchen. It’s the dead of winter and is bitterly cold. Mom is doing some washing with a rub board and rinsing the clothes in the kitchen sink. The pump house for our water has been turned off because of the bitter cold, the pipes drained so they won’t freeze and burst. We never knew when it would be warm enough to turn the pump back on. Mom has taken up water in several large crock jars and other containers. I can see her thin hands wringing out the heavy denim of the worn out blue jeans. The patches in the knees darker than the rest of the pants, oddly shaped squares, sewn by her hand. Dad has fixed the kitchen sink so that it will drain outside in the back yard, the water freezing in puddles. We didn’t own a lot of clothes, so there wasn’t a lot of washing to do. When we got home from school we had to take the school clothes we were wearing off and change into something else. As she is washing the clothes, I can hear the deep rubbing sound made with the rub board, a swish here and there and the occasional bubble floating from the wash tub. After mom finished washing, she would make sure she was good and dry and take the jeans outside to freeze on the clothes line. She hung shirts and clothes made of less heavy fabric on the back of chairs and a wire-line she had in the kitchen corner. After a while had passed, mom would put her coat on and take the broom outside with her. While the jeans hung on the clothes line, frozen stiff as a board, she would begin hitting the jeans with the broom. Ice crystals, shining in the sunlight would begin falling from the jeans, some diamond size, others like silver dust. She would beat them until they became pliable, then she would gather them from the line. I have never heard of anyone else doing this, but there must have been others that did the same thing. Face reddened, cold and I’m sure tired she began to hang the jeans close to the space heater to help dry. It was surprising that they were just a little more than damp when she brought them in. I can see the old iron she had on the stove, atop a flat tortilla plate to heat up before ironing the clothes, wiping the soot from the bottom of it each time it was heated. The handle was metal as well, so she had a potholder or whatever she could use to hold the heat away from her hands while ironing our clothes over and over. The twins were grown and gone by now, mom just had boys and a baby girl at home. We helped as much as we could in what she would let us do, but she seemed to have her own mission of responsibilities that weren’t nearly finished for the day. Cooking, cleaning and tending to family is about all my mother ever did. I don’t remember her ever having any time for herself, unless it was while we were at school. After living in the old farm house for about 25 years, time had taken its toll on her. The wiring was bad, the plumbing was shot and repairing anything was futile. Finally, with a lot of reservation, my oldest brother and my dad found a small house in town and they moved from the farm. Dad and sometimes mom would go to the farm every day. The town house is a comfortable little home. It too was old and a little small, but mom loved it anyway . Randy and Cindy were the only kids at home now. With the older kids grown there were a few more amenities offered, not a lot, but certainly more than mom was used to. She would go to the laundry occasionally after moving to town and was overjoyed with the first washing machine and dryer she had ever gotten. She was well into her 60s before this happened, just a few short years before my dad passed away, he was 65. He honestly tried the last few years of his life. I believe, and want to believe he achieved redemption. Mom continued to live the rest of her days in the little home in town until her passing 24 years to the very day my dad passed away. She was almost 87. She had had 24 years of loneliness. She got through those years with her children close to her, all the while, loving and missing my dad every day. God gave us an angel for a mom, a really special little lady. Growing up, much of our happiness was dependent upon her. She shielded us from harm and many heartaches I’m sure we never knew about. Just thinking of you mom, remembering when it was all of us.
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