I must not com­plain

The Compass - - OPINION - Ma­rina Power Gam­bin was born and raised in her beloved Branch, St. Mary’s Bay. She now lives in Pla­cen­tia where she taught school for almost three decades. She can be reached at mari­nagam­bin@per­sona.ca.

Just this morn­ing, I com­plained that I had for­got­ten the night be­fore to empty my dish­washer.

As I stared into a ma­chine full of sparkling clean dishes, ready to be stacked into the cup­board, mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in Branch in the 1950s came to mind. My mother, car­ing for a fam­ily of nine, had no dish­washer. Heck, she didn’t even have in­door plumb­ing. With­out the con­ve­nience of elec­tric­ity, ev­ery drop of hot wa­ter had to be heated in a boiler on the big wood stove. I can pic­ture it now, the large alu­minum pan of steam­ing wa­ter.

For the life of me, I can­not re­mem­ber any dish­wash­ing liq­uid. It sim­ply did not ex­ist in our house­hold when I was a child. Good old Sun­light Soap and a box of Rinso or Surf were the clean­ing agents of choice. After a com­plete Sun­day din­ner with salt beef and cab­bage, clear­ing it all up was no walk in the park. My sis­ters and I ar­gued so much about wash­ing dishes that some­times we came to blows. I must try to re­mem­ber this the next time I groan about an un­loaded dish­washer.

With an au­to­matic washer and dryer sit­ting side by side in my base­ment, I still find my­self ut­ter­ing mild ex­ple­tives re­gard­ing dirty tow­els and dish­cloths and the like. If I miss a few wash days, I mut­ter to my­self about where all the dirty clothes come from. Then I won­der to God how my poor mother kept us all clean with no run­ning wa­ter. Ev­ery ounce of wa­ter had to be lugged from out­doors. Get­ting clothes clean was dif­fi­cult enough, but get­ting them dry could be next to im­pos­si­ble. With the propen­sity for fog in St. Mary’s Bay, no won­der clothes were al­ways strung from one end of the kitchen to the other.

Be­cause there was al­ways a baby in the house, flan­nel di­a­pers and lit­tle night­ies took pri­or­ity over ev­ery­thing else. And win­ter time was deadly! I of­ten won­der what I would do now if I had to face a clothes­line full of laun­dry, frozen as stiff as a poker. The amaz­ing thing was that no mat­ter how frozen our ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing was one day, the next day it would be ready for wear­ing. Look­ing back on it now, I am filled with ap­pre­ci­a­tion and awe for my mother, and I re­mind my­self to thank God for those peo­ple who in­vented au­to­matic ap­pli­ances.

I pic­ture my mother on her knees, scrub­bing the can­vas floor, and then al­low­ing me and a crowd of my friends to tram­ple all over it in our boots. Here I am with sweep­ers and Swif­fers and vac­u­ums and ma­chines that almost clean on their own. I spend a small for­tune on Mr. Clean, Pine Sol and sim­i­lar prod­ucts. Yet, I ques­tion why my floors are not shiny and spot­less, and the an­swer evades me.

And then there was bread, de­li­cious, golden-crusted bread, which was a sta­ple in ev­ery house. No mat­ter how tired or how preg­nant my mother was, there were times when mid­night would find her up to her el­bows in dough. In the dead of win­ter, the pre­cious dough would have to be wrapped tightly to pre­vent freez­ing. Bak­ing it, the next day, meant keep­ing lots of dry wood next to the big Find­lay Oval range. With a sharp stab of conscience, I now re­al­ize how I took for granted, the en­tic­ing smell of those lovely loaves of manna. Yet, I have the au­dac­ity to grum­ble when the bread truck is late or the store is out my favourite brand. Worst of all, I haven’t baked my own bread in years.

I have come to a rea­son­able con­clu­sion, how­ever. I will never be as good a house­keeper as the gen­er­a­tion of women be­fore me, and as the ti­tle in­di­cates, I must not com­plain.

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