Every day was Mother's Day, but it was no holiday for her
I was all set to write about my dad today. I got an idea for a column and, for once, I didn't forget it before I could write it down.
Then, I realized something. Today is Mother's Day. It would be just like me to write a column about my dad on Mother's Day, but I decided to use a rare bit of common sense.
My mother certainly deserves a bit of recognition for putting up with my three siblings and me. Besides, I think Dad would have gallantly yielded his spot in this column to Mom.
Dealing with three sections of seventh-graders of about 60 students per day gives me an even greater appreciation of what my mother went through. Actually, she had it much harder since my younger brothers, Phil and Dave, and I were born less than four years apart.
That means she had to cope with three boys younger than 5 for over a year. Dealing with my brothers and me even when we were older than 5 was no picnic. She didn't get a break until five years after Dave's birth when our sister Mary Jo was born.
So, in honor of Mother's Day, this column will feature my recollection of what my mother's days were like when my brothers, sister and I were growing up.
On school days, Mother's first duties were twofold. The first was easy - get breakfast ready. The second was not that simple - make sure we kids were awake and making some sort of progress in getting dressed and ready for the day.
The initial wake-up call was frequently followed by her repeatedly recalling us from the bottom of the stairway that led to the second-floor bedrooms. She didn't give up until she heard the pitter-patter of our feet that threatened to collapse my brothers' and my bedroom into the kitchen below.
Three boys, three beds, one bureau and one small closet made for interesting - and loud - scenes as we got ready. It got even louder outside the only bathroom since it was shared by four kids and our parents.
Occasionally, Mother would have to come upstairs to issue a ruling on who would use the bathroom next.
She had a few blessed hours of quiet peace when she finally got all of us out the door and off to school. It must have been how it sounded when all the cannons stopped firing on Nov. 11, 1918, when World War I ended.
But just because it was quiet did not mean that Mother could take a well-deserved break. Depending on what day it was, she had one chore or another to do.
For example, Mondays were wash day. This involved her schlepping a small mountain of dirty clothes from the second floor to the antiquated washing machine in the basement. It was one step up the laundry scale from washing clothes in a stream by using rocks.
Then there came a breath of fresh air as she lugged baskets of wet clothes out to the yard to be hung on the clothesline. This usually involved her looking for the clothesline since my brothers and I went through a long cowboy phase in which we tried to perfect lassoing and rope-spinning.
Mother's interlude with nature did not last long since we lived down the block and across the street from the elementary school. That was back when schools let kids go home for lunch and the principal and teachers were pretty sure they would come back.
After serving up soup, sandwich and dessert, Mother had a few brief hours of quiet before the 3 p.m. school bell sounded. These she usually spent sewing clothes for my sister or darning the pants knees torn out by my brothers and me on a daily basis.
When the sewing and darning were done, it was time for her to get the evening meal together. Since we ate supper at 4 p.m., she didn't have much time.
After she had corralled the slowest of us kids to help with supper dish duty, Mother had a slight lull in her day to enjoy a breather, but the most onerous duty of all remained - bath time.
Using a combination of talents of drill sergeant, shepherd and Mom, she had to get my brothers and me to come in from play and get rid the dirt we so proudly accumulated.
Condemned men have walked to the electric chair with more enthusiasm than my brothers and I displayed in the few short feet from our bedroom to the bathroom.
When baths were completed, she looked like someone prospecting for gold as she cleaned a layer of sediment from the bottom of the bath tub.
Even when we were freshly scrubbed and attired in PJs, one more difficult task remained for Mother. She served as judge, jury and jailer as she listened to our arguments to stay up "just till the next commercial," then turned down our request and sent us upstairs to bed.
Since my two brothers and I shared a bedroom the size of a monk's cell, Mother would have to make one last trip up the steps to tell us to stop practicing swan dives off the bunk bed onto Dave's bed - and Dave.
Those were just a few of the myriad tasks she did in the course of a day, so Mother's day ended with well-deserved sleep.
Every day was Mother's Day, because she made every day special.
And Dad and we kids would be the first ones to say amen to that.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)