by Peggy Goldtrap
Remember the good old days? Weren’t they great? Saner? Safer? Remember when neighbors would leave the doors to their homes unlocked? Remember when most children said yes ma’am, no ma’am, and school began with a salute to the flag and even, the Lord’s Prayer? Peace and happiness reigned upon the whole country— in our dreams.
My mother, like most women of her time, was a fulltime homemaker. She worked as hard as my dad, but without wages. Cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, sewing, mending, gardening, tending to the needs of everyone in the household were the general duties of wife and mother. Her work was never finished, sun-up to sun-down. Her house always smelled of clean clothes, polished floors, and dusted surfaces plus the faintest aroma of mothballs in winter/spring transition.
Both parents smoked but I don’t remember a stale, haze or odor. In the good old days doctors and generals recommended cigarettes to relieve tension, encourage weight loss, and other medicinal purposes. My mom’s mother, Mammy, didn’t approve of women smoking, so when she came to visit us, my mom hid her habit. When Mammy took a nap, Mom’s favorite cigarettes came out of hiding. Both parents imbibed but ‘Mammy’ never knew about the demon rum. My reward for disposing the evidence was a tasty swirl or the last swig. WhooHoo.
Mom was a great cook. My husband always joked, (I hope it was a joke) that if he ever left me, he was going home to my mother. Mom could make dirt tasty. Her food was nutritious, delicious, and plentiful. She loved being complimented, and deserved it.
My family’s food philosophy was simple: if someone cares enough about you to prepare it and put it in front of you, EAT IT! That statement was not nurturing. It grew from their ‘good old days’ memory, the era of their youth on the farm when they literally grew or slew everything they ate. ‘Nothing personal, but your pet pig is on the Christmas platter.’
Food to people raised on a farm had different value than it did to a child who followed mom to the supermarket. My mother never refused food to anyone who asked. She shared what she had on the philosophy, “Never turn anyone away, it might be an angel of which you are unaware.’
When my mother made chocolate pie, she let me lick the pan. The gooey, warm, sweetness oozed in every crevice. Banana pudding too was to die for. Like so many women of her time, mom was a master at biscuits, cornbread, and homemade yeast rolls. I loved the taste of raw hamburger meat. Before you gag, here’s the story. Beef, in the good old days, was local and familiar. It was not pumped full of hormones or questionable chemicals nor was it imported from worlds unknown.
My family and another family bought a local cow, slaughtered it, and packaged it for cold storage at the meat locker. The locker was in a building, about the size of a small market and entrance required an ID. My family had a key to our Locker Box but the manager controlled the steel-door entry.
My fondness for raw hamburger is no more, but I still love rare meat, especially steak, cold from the fridge.
In those good old days, people ‘worked a garden, and froze the bounty. From seed to feed the turning of the soil meant a family would eat fresh and hearty.
Most communities had land to rent; space shared by others for the benefit of all. Before the Internet and TV, people twittered over shovels, spades, rakes, and hoes. Sun-kissed offers a richness that microwave-ready will never replace.
Actual farmers hawked fresh fruits, vegetables, farm eggs. Produce was sold from horse-drawn wagons. The cat licked milk bottles on the porch. A mobile library brought light to the masses.
Memory is so satisfying, but ‘there is a fly in the ointment.’ The good old days are gone. Mom’s kitchen is closed forever. It’s not coming back. We can paint our childhood with the rosiest brush, and overlook the shadows of those times. There were many. I’ll save those for another day.
Moms now are busy with multi-tasking and multi responsibilities. The definition of single mom in my day was a widow or a rare divorcee. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all put society on the skids. Kids that played outside after dark are inside now or in planned recreation or glued to an electronic gadget. Grandparents are raising grandchildren. In casual conversation we fling words that would have earned us a Lifebuoy mouthwash in the good old days.
Today’s moms, in all fairness, can’t do what my mom did. Her lifestyle belongs in a museum. Her fulltime career and focus was managing a home despite its low pay, no benefits, long hours, and zero incentive to transfer. Her favorite expression summarized her pride: ‘A woman can throw out more in a teaspoon than a man can bring home in a wheelbarrow.’
Mom lived her words for 72 years of marriage; her skills contributing greatly toward a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. Managing the home was her passion and she rose to the top of her profession. She was an A#1 executive manager, gourmet chef, best on the block, everyone’s favorite room mother, the most perfect playmate, the most beautiful mother in the world. Mom is gone along with those good old days and beautiful memories.
No regrets, but I need to hurry and soak in my waning time, wallow in well-being, create silly songs for the great-grands to sing. I’m living the ‘good old days’ right now and I intend to glean the most of these precious moments.