Friday, February 26, 2010

MAKING GAME OF HOUSEWORK, part 1 of 2; Helen Waite Munro (1922)

Pick up and catch it, what shall it be? sang small Marion.

"Baby's rubber rattle, one, two, three," responded four year-old Estelle, laughing to see Marion look wildly around for the rattle, then pounce upon it and run to put it away. Then she, in her turn, sang: "Pick up and catch it, what shall it be?"

"Your red sweater, one, two, three." This from brother Eddie whose turn it was to answer her. By the time it was taken care of Marion was back again and ready in answer to Eddie's question to tell him what to take. With merry laughter the sitting-room was soon cleared and in order for Father to come.

I had arrived that afternoon at the home of my niece, Esther Allbee, whom I had not seen since her marriage nine years before. She had gone to the kitchen to start supper but before going had suggested to the children that they play the Pick Up game, then go to the dining-room and set the table.

I could not resist a peek into the dining-room after the three had gone there, for, to the tune of the bugle call, "I can't get 'em up in the morning" they were singing:

"Each dish in its place,
Each dish in its place,
Each dish in its place on the table!"

Small Estelle was carefully laying the knives, forks and spoons. Six-year-old Marion was putting dishes in place with care and precision and Eddie was bringing in from the kitchen plates of food given him by his mother. No great task for any one of them, but, except for a few finishing touches from an older person, the supper table was ready.

"What little helpers they are!" I exclaimed to Esther when she came in to sit down a moment while waiting for her husband. "How do you manage to interest them so?"

"We make games," she replied. "I never could do all the work here except for their help but I try to make it a pleasure instead of a task--and I really believe I enjoy it as much as they do."

After supper was over and the baby tucked in bed the next game was in order. It was called The Dish Laundry. The two dishpans and the drainer were set in line. Mother washed the dishes, her accustomed hands able to keep up with the crowd. Father rinsed and put them in the drainer. Marion wiped dishes and Estelle wiped silver, while Eddie put them all away. Tonight I was allowed to help the two girls with the drying.

"Just four minutes by the clock," announced Eddie, proudly. "We beat."

"When we put them through in less than five minutes, we beat the clock. When it's more than that, the clock beats us," explained Marion.

"We have a song we 'most always sing," put in Estelle in a hurt tone, "but everybody ws talking so fast tonight there wasn't any chance."

"Sing it now," I suggested. I'd love to hear it."

So the three children started in, to the tune of Yankee Doodle;

"Oh, when the dishes must be done,
Each one should be quite ready
To do her part and do it well,
And keep right at it steady.

Help your mother, work your best,
do your mother's dishes.
Wash them spry and wipe them dry
According to her wishes."