Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Finding Mom

Who would have guessed that my mother had ever worked away from the farm? Like many of the community, Mom, too, worked at the tomato canary when the tomatoes were ripe, picked and ready to be packed for market. Money was always tight. A bit of extra cash was needed. My sisters knew this information, but it was new to me.

“I remember sitting with Mom in Leah's kitchen counting potatoes,” Peg said. Many people in our area grew potatoes. For many farmers, neighbors were part of the digging crew once that time of the year rolled around. Adults and older children would dig the potatoes as some of the wives and mothers counted. Younger children played with other kids who tagged along.

“Counted what?” I asked.

Peg explained how numbered tags were handed to each potato digger then placed on the bushel basket they carried to the field. After the baskets were filled with freshly dug potatoes, they were loaded onto a wagon that carried them to the counters. Mom sat in the kitchen with other women counting the number of potatoes in each basket. The count was then written on the tag, the pay slip used in paying the worker at end of the day. The payoff on a bushel was 4-6 cents.

Money was scarce. Farmers and their women worked hard for every penny they earned. While the women worked, little ones stayed with an older sibling, another relative or sat at the mother’s feet or in a makeshift crib while the mother earned her daily wages. It was a way of life.

I didn’t know that Mom worked away from home. I didn’t know that Mom contributed financially to the household. We girls always thought that Mom would have liked to go to college. She was an intelligent woman with a desire to learn. Of course, her father would never have considered sending a girl for higher education. ‘A woman’s place was in the home’. I wonder what she would have done had she had choices to make. What contributions could she have made to a society that had a narrow view of women? What could she have done to reach her potential?

Mom always wanted to do more; however, she did much in the only arena in which she could participate. She loved doing for others, teaching songs to youth, organizing a group of teens or bunch of women for projects. Mom was a doer. Her life was rich in experience. Mom yearned to learn as much as she could expanding her knowledge and her beliefs. She continued to learn until she could learn no more.

Funny what you learn when you spend some time with your siblings.

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