Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Did Ma Wear a Bra?

Speaking of perfectionism...did Ma wear a bra? 

 I come from good pioneer stock.  I make pies using a rolling pin that traveled from New York State to western Iowa in a covered 
wagon sometime prior to the Civil War. Like Ma Ingalls, my great and great-great grandmothers rocked babies, fed threshing crews, sewed entire family wardrobes, and cleaned  houses without the benefit of Dyson vacuums and HE washers.  

How can I run out of hours in the day when I have a house filled with conveniences and two teen-age daughters who are delightfully competent in the kitchen and the yard?

My own ma was raised by a mother who was born in 1889.  She was named after one of those pioneer women who did it all in a corset and a long-sleeved and ankle-length dress--Harriet Jane.  She sewed my clothes, tended a large garden, baked from scratch, graduated from college at 47, and read poetry until the early hours of the morning.  She was an incredible combination of pioneer and liberated woman.  Mom taught me how to clean and clean properly, but she also taught me that you never clean wearing a bra.

I am guessing she wore one when my brother and sister were learning the particulars of home maintenance.   They are a bit older than I, and then Mom was probably scrubbing floors in a "house dress" and a manicure.  Things had changed by the time she handed me the long end of a mop.  This was around the time she drove off the road and  into a snow drift while singing "I Am Woman."  "Too confining," she told me as she dropped the offending brassiere in the laundry basket.

Mom taught me the prosaic, but the real lesson I learned from her was to listen to my heart and take chances.   She sat through two sessions (24 classes in all) of rosemaling lessons with me so that I wouldn't spend all my time in college studying.  She had no painting talent, but she cheered me on.  She was my travel buddy as we trekked through Europe numerous times during the late 70's and 80's. "Let's just go into the next town and ask the first person we see if he knows of a good B&B."  She gave me the courage to adopt three daughters as a single mom. "If anyone can do it, you can," is what she told me when I told her about the third.

This entry has taken on a much different life and tone than expected.  Perhaps it is because last week would have marked Mom's 89th birthday.  Perhaps it is because the first things I ever collaged were some of her recipes, which now hang in my kitchen.  Mom would have loved reading this blog.  Mom would have started a blog of her own.  Mom cleaned without a bra.  Thanks Harriet...


Am I the only one who has to steal batteries from the TV remote so I can take a picture?


  1. We both lucked out on the "Auntie" department! I thought about Aunt Sally on the 7th.

  2. When Jenelle first picked out her wedding date, I told her, "Love that it is tucked in between Mom's birthday on the 7th and Auntie's on the 9th!!"

  3. So good...tears. Now to take my bra off and clean the toilet! Au revoir

  4. Your mother and mine have striking similarities. Weren't we - as I pray others were - blessed to have great women to look up to?

    PS I am the keeper of the rolling pin from the great-grandmother, pie-maker extraordinaire from the little family restaurant in western Iowa, the first whose name I know in a long line of pie-maker extraordinaire. Though I am a "career" woman and can't cook my way of a paper bag, knowing how to use that tool well is one of my few, little sources of pride and satisfaction.