We kids did all of the housework because Momma was not a Pledge-commercial-type lady. She did not flit about with soft white cloths dusting and smiling at the furniture. She did not do the cleaning at all. My mom was sick most of the time. As a young wife, she had suffered through the loss of three stillborn babies. After ten miscarriages, it took her a total of seventeen pregnancies to get four live children. She was diagnosed with diabetes a couple of years before I was born, and when I was just a baby, she got cervical cancer. She survived it, but never really recovered emotionally. In addition to that, the diabetes caused degenerating discs, kidney failure and blindness. Despite her illness, she was a great lover of fun, so when she was feeling well enough to get out of bed, housework was not a priority.
She was probably the most creative and intelligent woman I have ever known, and when she was able to work, she worked hard. Momma could read a cookbook with the excitement and intrigue of a novel, then get up and fix amazing new dishes for supper. She canned bushels of tomatoes from the garden, and at slaughtering time she prepared tons of meat for the freezer. She also loved sewing and every kind of needlework and handicraft. She had shelves, tables, boxes and bins filled with craft magazines, yarn, fabric, paint, ceramics, needlepoint, and Craft-of-the-Month Club kits just waiting for her eager hands when she felt well enough to do them. Like my dad, there seemed to be nothing she couldn’t do. I think the one exception might have been housecleaning.
In our family culture, now that I think about it, once-a-week housecleaning during the hours between cartoons and American Bandstand by four under-skilled, and for the most part unwilling, minors actually made sense.