Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Holding Our Peace

On the email lately, on the response group, we have been writing about the women of old and their take on the family. Annie sent in a written conversation between an older wiser woman speaking to a younger married woman concerning adultery … it was a good writing. I was going to add my 2 cents here.

I have had a vision lately of this woman of dignity, this woman of peace. See, the bottom line with most of the women, back when, was to keep the home peaceful. Always her first priority was to keep the children guarded and safe. She would never say or do anything to disrupt her children’s lives. The homes of old were peaceful. The children were looked upon as blessings, for the most part. I mean, you saw an occasional woman who put herself first in the family. But if she did, she was rare and very looked down on in her society.

In my neighborhood growing up, there was just one divorce, that I knew of, among my relatives. Then across the street was an apartment house, and a woman lived there with her daughter, and she was divorced and had to go to work. But a divorce was rare and I didn’t know of any married women who went out to work. I saw, as a child, homes where the husband wasn’t treating the family right and was gone a lot. But no one divorced and if they had to, it was after the children were grown.

The family home was to be sweet and orderly and peaceful. And no matter what the husband did, the wives kept the home for the children.

Next door to us, we had a family who were another culture. This husband, John, was the character of the year. He was gone about 6 months out of the year selling carpets? When he would get back in town, then he would have all the men relatives over to play poker for half the night. His wife Sarah was a saint. She wasn’t the same nationality as John, and was from the deep south. Anyway, she would call to me as I was playing outside next door. And in her southern drawl, she would plead with me, “Now, Connie, John and his men friends will be playin’ poker tonight and will sleep the next morning and late into the day. So don’t tease Joanne (her daughter) and make her cry. And PLEEEEEEse don’t come by and ring the door bell early in the morning.” And I said I wouldn’t. I mean, these men over there looked like gangsters from the Al Capone days. They would come over with nice suits, shiny black shoes and the dress hats pulled down over their eyes. Big cigars, and always talking in their native language. And for a child like I was? The temptation would just get too much for me. And at 7:30 in the morning, the suspense was always killing me. So I would quickly dress and run next door and ring the doorbell for all I was worth, which wasn’t much? All the naughty kids, back in the old days, rang people’s doorbells and ran away. But to me, this doorbell was the granddaddy of ’em all and I had to ring it — I couldn’t help it. And I would ring it until Sarah came to the door. And certainly, it woke up all those old criminals up. When Sarah would tell my mother on me, I would hide up in the attic. Mother would come upstairs and call, “Connnieeee Anne?” I wouldn’t answer or come back out of the attic until my folks cooled down.

And I said all of this to say that Sarah kept the house as peaceful as she could. And I spent many hours playing with the two girls at their home, and there was never talk of a divorce. Sarah was a pretty woman, soft spoken. Joanne would get so mad at me and start to cussin’. And her mother would get out a switch and spank her legs and chase her around the house. Sarah maintained law and order when John was gone. Finally, John got shot and was killed. The family then moved to California. And one by one, they all died. But ya know, they were always good neighbors to the neighborhood. And I had many happy times at their home. Sarah made a home for the children.

And ya know, had Annie lived next door to me and the timing had been different? She would have shot my doorbell ringing fingers off before John woke up. Annie is so practical.

Yet my point is that Mothers back then did what they had to do to keep a home peaceful. Society took a very grim look at a mother in the home that didn’t take good care of the children. The Mother kept the Father happy and satisfied, not so she would have a good sex life or whatever. She kept her husband happy because he was the bread winner and she needed a roof over her head to maintain her ministry as Keeper at Home. Everything she did was for the children and their well being. This is why the Bible tells her to submit to her husband. She would sometimes forget her husband, which wasn’t good. But her main focus was usually the children. She wanted to create a place of peace to raise her little ones. If her husband was harsh or unruly, society expected the wife to tame him and make a man out of him. Not by ordering him about but by her quiet behavior.

My dad was a good man and always worked and supported the family. But he was very spirited and artistic. One day mother was quietly ironing the clothes. My Dad had gotten mad and started hollering at Mom. My Mother just kept ironing the clothes — never said a word. I was playing with my dolls in the floor beside her. Dad got out his suitcase and started to fill it with clothes from the dresser. Just went to stuffing clothes in there like a mad dog. He was screaming about how he was going to leave us and never come back. I looked up at Mom from the floor and said, “Mom, is Dad really going to leave us?” And Mom said quietly, as she kept on ironing, “I don’t know.” And she was so calm about it, I thought well, either way, I would have my mother. Finally, Dad calmed down and went in the living room to cool off. But my mother, in a million years, wouldn’t have fought in front of us kids.

Mother was our anchor in the storm. And Dad was a good man — I don’t mean to say he wasn’t. He worked every day for his family and maintained a nice home for us. We kids never went without anything … that’s for sure. And Dad cared for my Mother’s mother, in her old age, and his dad and mother. He was an honorable man. But he was very spirited and creative. He was a wonderful inventor — could fix anything. But Mom was a simple woman and just did whatever was before her to do to maintain peace and order. If we kids came home from school and mom wasn’t there, we would be scared and wonder who died. I mean, unless she told us she would be gone, which was rare. Mother did go to work for a short time but our grandmother moved into the house to care for us children.

We were never left at home alone. Well, when I was 7, we were left alone for like 15 minutes a day. Mom had to work briefly and Dad was home with us kids after work. Anyway, in that 15 minutes, I had a ball. I would pin up the neighbor girls’ hair with Mom’s hairpins and send them home. And Mom then had no hairpins to set her own hair that night. (The women used to do up their hair each night before bed.) Well, I only had about 15 minutes with the house to myself but I had fun.

One time, when I was about 6 or so and Scott was about 4, we had to make a business trip back to where we had lived in another town. Dad had told me and Scott that we weren’t to go play with the neighbors but to stay right around the house, as we weren’t staying long. Well, my Aunt Lilly was taking care of my parents’ house until it sold. So Scott and I forgot to not run off and we ran to play with the neighbor children. Dad went lookin’ for us and found me and I didn’t know where Scott was. So I had to go look for him and I told all the neighbors as I went, “Do you know where Scott is … we are gonna get a beatin’.” I LOVED goin about the old neighborhood tellin’ everyone that Scott and me were gonna get it. So, anyway, once Dad found both Scott and me, we got a good belt spanking in the bedroom with the door shut. The fun part was my aunt Lilly. She stood outside the door with her arms crossed in front of her. She was as mad as a wet hen. When we children came out of the bedroom, she told my mother in front of us kids, “Well, he didn’t need to spank those kids like that.” I loved showing my aunt my sad face, giving her more and more steam. Mother never said a word and ignored my aunt and changed the subject.

Actually, the spanking didn’t hurt as much as I thought it was going to. At home, if I knew I was gonna get a spanking, I would put on all 7 pairs of my underwear first. Mother always had at least 7 pairs of my underwear in my drawer with the days of the week on them. So if I was gonna get a spanking, I wore Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. underwear, even though it was only Friday. I had several sets. At any rate, I wore all the underwear in my drawer on my spanking days. I was very ornery at times. So Dad would tell me to go upstairs and get ready for my spanking, so I did. It never hurt that much, anyway.

But the point was that Mother tired to maintain a peace in the home. Scott was pretty easy does it but I was not. He would run home and tell Mother all the bad things I did at school. Mother would say, “Surely not.” And would go on about her business.

My Mother was not really a believer. But ya know, back then, the women were good and moral for the most part. Mom’s folks were believers and her grandparents before her. There was a Christian atmosphere that Mom grew up in. But, as you can tell, I needed a lot more as a child than a Christian atmosphere. I was very spirited, like my dad, and creative. Even as a child, my heart cried out for Jesus and yet I didn’t know Him. I guess I knew Him inside but wasn’t taught about Him. When I finally met Him at 19, I was so happy. Even as a child, I was taught to fight. And to think I didn’t have to fight anymore was such a wonderous thing to me. I could just relax and be a Christian. But what I am tryin’ to say here is that the women, back when, maintained a peace in the home. Even if they were not believers. They had an order and a love for the children. They loved their husbands, too, and they reverenced them.

Mother always told us that dad was a good family man and he was. Mother loved my dad and we kids knew that. Often when I was a teenager, she would tell me, “I think I love your Dad more than I ever have. Each passing year I love him more.” And My Dad loved my mother. One time, well, just about 3 years before he died in 2001, he told my mother in front of me, “I think your mother is prettier now than I have ever seen her.” At the time, they were both in their 70s. My Dad worshipped my mother. She was his anchor and stability.

That was the story of many of the old time families. The husband was maybe a wild cat, but the mother, for the sake of the marriage and the children, maintained a home and a place of refuge for the family and the extended family, too. By the obedience of the wife and mother, many had a place — a home — to live in. Mother made the wheels of harmony go around. She kept the home through hell and high water and was the comforter for those who lived there.Through holding her own peace, she made a home of peace and rest for her family and extended family.

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