When my mother was raising seven children she took part-time work to help fill the financial gaps during a time when a woman’s place was in the home child rearing, homemaking and budgeting the income provided by the man of the house.
Mom was also the referee, nurse and teacher of right and wrong.
While others in our small rural community may have considered us poor, we never went to bed hungry, regularly scrubbed clean and sent off to Sunday School most weeks.
A child of the Great Depression she carefully guarded money and knew how much we had right down to the nickel.
When I was five years old I learned the value of that nickel and the dangers of foolish spending on a hot summer day. The neighborhood kids were headed to the store to buy frozen pops and I wanted to join them on their adventure. For weeks these kids had taunted me that their folks had threatened to call the “welfare” on my family. I didn’t know what the welfare was… but there had been lots of talk at home about the poor house and how people who didn’t have money were sent to that terrible place.
My mom kept her big black purse on the highest kitchen shelf. Somehow I managed to move a chair to the counter, climb up and take the money without being caught.
That precious nickel was spent on that long ago summer day and helped me feel like a normal kid as my tongue became stained by the ill-gotten frozen pop. When I got home I was caught red-handed. (or should I say purple tongued.) Mom grilled me and explained in no uncertain terms stealing was wrong and hurt everyone. She sent me to the living room to await my punishment when Dad came home. Sobbing and filled with guilt it seemed as if hours passed until I learned my fate.
When Dad did come home he said not a word. Mom’s punishment had been enough. I had learned stealing was bad and a nickel meant something for a family struggling to make ends meet.
This is just one childhood memory of a time when a woman’s place was in the home and one of the many lessons defining who I’ve become.
Pulling up my news feed today and reading about Senator Susan Collins and her courageous stand against the latest Trump Care proposal I cannot help but think about my mom. She would have made a hell of a politician.