As spring approaches I am eager to open the windows, clear away some of the excess of winter coziness, and start scrubbing. I’ve found myself thinking of Grandma a lot lately and trying to recall just how she kept house. I truly believe my love of homemaking came from her.
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Homemaking Like Grandma
Her Day Began Early
I don’t know exactly what time she got up but she was always up and going when I awoke after spending the night. We lived in the Southern California desert so it was important to do things such as watering gardens or hanging out laundry before the heat set in.
She Always Wore a Housedress and Apron
Grandma dressed for her job as a homemaker. No one would call her stylish but her clothing was serviceable. A simple, cotton house dress covered by an apron, hose and comfortable shoes. Yes, she wore hose every day!
A Quiet Start
Grandma’s days were usually filled with the care of her home, Grandpa and any number of her eleven grandchildren, nine of whom lived next door or within a block of her house. I’m certain Grandma was an introvert so some early morning quiet time was no doubt important to her. I don’t know her exact early morning routine but I’m sure it included Bible reading and prayer. And while she would never have been interested in meditation, I suspect the time she spent early every morning watering all her trees, shrubs, roses. lilacs and other flowers served as a form of mindfulness for her.
She served Grandpa a cooked breakfast and coffee every morning. However, like me, her preferred breakfast was toast and hot tea. Some of us simply are not big breakfast eaters and never will be. When I spent the night I was never coerced to eat anything more than toast with her homemade grape jelly and a cup of hot Lipton tea with milk and sugar. To this day I still consider tea and toast the absolute perfect breakfast.
Once her household was fed, Grandma began the daily housekeeping tasks. Beds were made every morning and dishes were hand washed. She never used a dishwasher…even after her adult children gifted her with a portable one. It simply provided her with a bit more work space in her tiny kitchen.
I don’t know if she assigned tasks to particular days or not. I asked my cousin who also lived next door but she wasn’t sure, either. I do remember that she cleaned out the refrigerator on Saturday mornings. Grandma never drove and Grandpa did the marketing. I’m guessing he went to the grocery store on Saturdays so it made sense to clean the fridge (or “icebox” as she referred to it) before Grandpa brought home the week’s groceries.
Supper…an Early Start
Grandma often cooked or prepared at least a portion of the evening meal early in the day. This was likely a holdover from her early years of marriage in Oklahoma. They had no electricity and therefore no air conditioning. During hot summer days it would be important to do one’s cooking early in the day. She did have air conditioning in the desert but old habits die hard.
Whistle While You Work
As a child I always knew where Grandma was if I simply listened a moment or two. She went about her chores whistling or singing hymns. Her children and many of her grandchildren have nice singing voices but that didn’t come from her. Like her clothing, her voice was “serviceable”. She could carry a tune reasonably well but that was about it. Still, there was something comforting in hearing her sing or whistle the old hymns such as “In the Garden”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Blessed Assurance” and “Oh, How I Love Jesus”. This apparently had an impact on me from a very early age. One of her favorite stories about me was how, as a toddler, I’d go around singing “Jesus, I sure do like you”, my baby version of “Oh, How I Love Jesus”.
Peace and Balance
When I asked my cousin what she remembered about Grandma’s housekeeping, she mentioned that there was no laundry on Sundays. In fact, other than the essentials of bed making, meals and dishes, Grandma didn’t do housework on Sundays. She kept nursery at church and for a number of years I worked with her. But after church and lunch, Grandma rested which I’m sure she truly needed. She seemed to understand instinctually that a life well-lived requires balance. As my cousin recalled, Grandma rarely sat down during the day. Yet she did seem to pace herself. She never acted rushed but approached her daily tasks in a slow and steady manner.
I think there is much we can learn from the homemaking routines of earlier times. Of course we all have to figure out what best suits our lifestyle and I’m not giving up my dishwasher. But Grandma definitely had her act together around her home and that’s something I’m trying to emulate.
I’d love to hear from you. How did your mom or grandmother keep house? What have you learned from them or what have you decided not to include in your routines? Let’s chat about it in the comments.
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