I am writing more about keeping a home organized as Kelly on our response group has asked me about it.
Ya know my son Jimmy was in the Navy. He went in at 18 and then I still had two teens in the house and three little ones under the age of 5 years old. Jimmy was an American spy. He was a part of a flight crew that flew over enemy territory and Jimmy had to read the computers and tell if there were any bombs in the area. To make a a long story short, we never knew where he was in the world as he couldn’t tell us. But often he came home on leave and we wouldn’t know when he was coming. Along towards evening, he would give us a surprise phone call from the airport. And then Wild Man would go pick him up.
One time the house was in a worst shambles then usual. I was about to cry, as I knew Jimmy and Jim would be back form the airport in about an hour. I called MaryL, my mentor. She said, “Connie, just make a nice meal and make sure you have it done by the time they get there.” Well, I hurried off the phone and got to cookin’. After I started a nice meal, I began to clean the living room and the children helped me. I was able to welcome our son and have a nice family dinner made for him. I can’t remember what I fixed. But when he was on leave, I would often invite family friends and neighbors over to visit Jimmy.
Two standard cakes I made were icebox cakes. Then we would have ice cream and soda or juice for the kids and coffee for the adults. The two cakes were very simple to make in two 9 by 13 cake pans. One was a chocolate cake mix and the other a yellow cake mix. After they were baked, I would put a chocolate pudding mix spread over the top. And the yellow cake, after it was baked, I put a vanilla pudding mix over it. Then I kept them in the fridge or covered on the front porch to stay cool. These cakes were simple to make — I never ran out of cake.
I would always have the children sit in the living room around the coffee table and the older folks sat where they pleased, usually at the family table. The children knew the adults were to be respected and they could sit where they wanted. Even though Jimmy was the Master of Ceremonies, he sat in the living room on the couch, balancing his paper plate on his knees. Our old milkman would yell in Jimmy’s ear, “So how is the United States Navy?”
Dick, our milkman, just died recently at 86 years old. He was at Jim’s funeral. But he was hard of hearing and always yelled. He had delivered milk and butter to us since 1973. He stopped in about 1997. He was a good Christian man. Our family will never forget him. He always knocked at the door and came on in. “ANYBODY HOME?” Jim could have popped him a good one many times but, thank God, he never did. Dick came when he pleased when he was goin’ by the area. He would switch us around and come even at night after the kids were in bed. The house would be asleep and here comes Dick, yellin’ “Anybody home?” I would ask Dick quietly if he could come in the daytime when everyone wasn’t asleep. But he said he had to come when he was driving by. Oh, what a character. Of course, the kids loved him and when they heard him come, they would jump out of bed and run to see him.
Dick also raised goats and would drive around with a big goat hangin’ out the back car window. The kids loved that and would run to pet the goat. I wanted a goat, too, for the back yard but Jim said “Absolutely not!” But our Dick started out delivering milk in about the 1940s and used a horse and cart.
Dick would come in and ask if he could use the bathroom and, as he ran by, I would ask him if he wanted a cup of coffee. Jim would motion with his eyes to me that he was not in the mood to entertain the milkman. Our lives were so ridiculous! Sometimes Jim would visit with Dick. The conversation was always … well, I would excuse myself and leave the room.
We do have fond memories of Dick and all the old family friends.
But ya know when you are having guests with a big family, it can get crazy. But like MaryL has always told me, “Connie, folks notice if you make them feel ‘Welcome’ and if you have a nice meal ready.” And this is so true. I mean, yes, keep the house clean but mainly make sure you welcome your guests and have the coffee on and a snack — especially if your guests have been traveling for a long time to get there.
I am such a feather brain and what you see is basically what you get here. Like Aunt Toot says, “The coffee will be on and a pile of laundry will be sitting in the chair.” I don’t notice the obvious most of the time. I mean ya gotta live and let live. No one’s house is perfect. But my life as a homemaker usually pivoted from the kitchen. It had to. I didn’t buy a bunch of junk food as I couldn’t afford it. Our kids couldn’t go to the fridge and pick something up to eat unless it was fresh fruit or something. It was a treat for them to have cold cereal. So I had to make three meals a day. I spent most of my time in the kitchen.
My kids would vacuum and pick up as they had to. I tried to have the house picked up when I knew Jim would be home from work. And to me, it is so dishonorable for a wife to have company when her husband just arrives home from work. I would tell the children’s friends if they had been there for the afternoon, “Well, the kids’ Daddy will be home in a bit so I will have to send you children home.” And then then our kids would help pick up. Jim wasn’t hard to please as far as my homemaking, so things were far from spotless. But, no, I didn’t expect Jim to come home from work and not be able to even get in the door for the toys. And ya know the children and I had watched TV during the day. And we let Jim watch what he wanted when he got home and we let him rest in his chair for a while and have a cup of coffee. And I would have dinner about ready. But ya know to me that is just common courtesy. If I had to work all day, I would want someone to give me a break when I got home. And I mean, yes, we had emergencies, plenty of ‘em. And many times, Jim had to come in the house a-runnin’. But I did strive to keep the house half way quiet for when he got off work. I mean as much as possible.
I would overhear many conversations and Jim always talked about “Connie and the kids.” We were precious to him as he was to us.
No, my house is often stacks of things here and there waiting for me to unstack it. But the main order in the family is contentment and harmony. Make a happy nest for the family, dear Mothers, and let the rest of it all fall into place. Always put husband first. He is not Mama’s helper. Teach the children to honor Daddy and he will teach them to honor you.