I’m a ‘50’s child raised by parents who grew up in the 1910s and ‘20s. My parents were well old enough to be my grandparents. As I grew up, I thought their attitudes were rather out of step with the times – more so than my friend’s parents -- but now that I’m older and talking about the days of yore, I appreciate my first-hand knowledge of vintage ideals.
My shirt-tail cousin Leah commented on the previous blog about her aunt and uncle (her aunt now 96): “This generation (including my aunt & uncle) would feed anyone that came to visit, no matter how long. They never complained about cost or inconvenience. I think that in Bertha & Ina's time, the welcome mat was always out (at anyone's house).”
I was glad Leah said it because that’s the way I remember it – extend the hospitality of home and table when called upon to do so without complaint. When I was at home with my parents, we had company frequently, and my parents welcomed the prospect. (Well, my mother did; my dad may have grumbled to himself behind a closed door.) The welcome mat was brushed off, fresh linens put on the beds, and the house and yard put in order.
Here are some things I remember about how my mother managed the prospect of company:
- It was at once an obligation and a privilege to accept any social invitation. Whether called to serve as guest or hostess, the service was accepted willingly and seen as a blessing.
- Whatever she was doing within the home was not an obstacle to serving guests. If she was babysitting three or four grandchildren that week, she did not turn away company. The household machine gathered up whoever was there and we continued on.
- My mother had help. Sometimes when I feel I just can’t do what she did, I remember she had a girl who was really dependable and helpful – yes, sometimes even capable. I would entertain children, bake cookies, help with the laundry and the cleaning, stir a pot or carry things up and down stairs. “I’ll need you to be my right-hand man,” she would say, and I would “take up the slack” where needed.
- Mother saw it as a good thing when the general routine of life was turned upside-down for a spell. When you returned to life as usual, you had something new to think about.
Once I grumbled to my mother that I had been uncomfortable sleeping on a broken-down hide-a-bed when visiting relatives. Mother’s quick comment silenced me: “People share what they have.”
[The photo was taken when Arvid and Laimi Portfors and their son Paul and his wife Martha visited us about 1962. Arvid was my grandfather’s younger half brother. From left to right: Laimi and Arvid; me (Kathy); my mother, Dorothy Dobson; my grandfather, C. O. Portfors; Paul and Martha. The visiting Portfors were from Thunder Bay, Ontario – AND – they didn’t speak much English. Apparently there's a Finnish community in Thunder Bay, and they didn't need to speak English. Sadly, I'm the last man standing. Paul was the first to go -- passed away of a heart attack, I believe, not too many years after this visit.] KW