Manataka American Indian Council®
When I was a young mother of three little ones, I was faced with the dilemma of working. I did not want to leave my babies to a stranger for the time I would be gone from the house. It was so hard to find good baby sitters in those days there were very few day cares and those that you could find did not have to be licensed or inspected by the state. You just found some other mother who was doing this from her own home because she also had small children.
At one time I also took in children to watch in my home just to be with my own children. I also took in ironing and mending, dress making, cooking, craft making, and any other money making project I could find. At one time I worked in a shoe shop and as a nurse in a medical center and ran a cleaning service for offices and private homes. I think one has to be creative to work and still be there for her family.
With six children we worked hard to just make the basics let alone trips to Disney World. My kids never got to do that but they did go on camping trips. We fished in the ocean and the lakes and rivers. They grew up with a deep respect for hard work, the natural wonders of nature. Summers were spent on the river where I had built a home in the early 60’s. I remember picking out the land and going for the loan to build the house. It was hard to do with all the working but we managed to move into our new freshly built home when I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter Debbie.
We had no furniture so we put our mattress on the floor and slept that way. I told the kids we were camping out here in our wilderness home. I had a folding table and metal chairs to sit on and that was it.
Finally we got furniture but the important thing was we were in our own home, not some rented apartment in the village. I did not want my children to grow up on the streets of South Windham.
The land I chose to build on was only a block from one of the purest rivers in Maine it flows right out of Sebago Lake. My children had their very own natural swimming pool complete with the wilderness and animals. The schools that they attended were not crowded and we still had town meeting where everyone went and had a say in the way the town was managed.
Summers we would drive to the ocean and take the kids to the beach. There they could search the tidal pools for sea shells and watch the small fish and other little creatures swimming. It was the best of all things rolled into one. We hunted and fished and ate what we caught or picked.
I remember one woman who worked with me, her name was Evelyn she was raising her two young girls alone. I do not remember all the details but I do think she was divorced. She was older than me a kind of mother figure and held a vast wealth of wisdom in her heart. The words she said to me still hold true in my life and in my family. She said, “ your children are the jewels on your crown. “
I was discouraged at times with all the work and pressures at home as I too was alone most of the time. My husband was a long distance truck driver and was seldom home to be with the family. I cared for his elderly mother too so that added to my burden. Along with the various organizations I was active in there was little time to sit and just relax. Kids sense when you’re relaxing, and we did not have portable cordless phones in those days. The ringing of the phone set them in motion doing all sort of things just out of my reach. My phone cord was so stretched I think I could do the 40 yard dash with it in hand and a baby on my hip.
It seems that none of the things people do when they get a new home got done at my house in orderly fashion. The yard was more a play ground for the neighbor’s kids than it was a show place of tidy lawn and flower beds.
Others had this but I had the kids and their kids were constantly at my house. They were not allowed to play on the lawn or have a basket ball court in their front yards, as we did. We also had a base ball games there upon occasion.
Many a cook out and camp fire were build in my back yard with the kids it was like summer camp. I even held barber shop there at least twice a month and cut hair.
One time my son and daughters and a few of the River Rat Pack, as I came to all the gang of kids, built a three story tree house in the big pine trees behind my house. There is still a bit of that left in the trees after all these years. Memories of raising my children in that house run deep and most of them are good ones.
It got to be such a play ground, that the mothers would just drive by and dump off the kids on the weekend thinking that I would not mind watching them. On Saturdays we would make mini pizza’s and pop corn for the evening when kids would all come over. They could play in the unfinished basement and turn up the loud music until the base board heaters vibrated. They all were safe and having fun down there in the cellar and I could relax for a few hours.
When I did take in kids after school and through the week they did not want to go home with the parents when they came. Some would run or just put up a fuss kicking and screaming. This did not go over too well with the parents standing in the door way waiting to collect their little gyms. My strategy was to have them dressed with pack in hand when the parents arrived that way it was just a hand off to them.
The kids finally started to call me MA instead of the formal Misses. To this day some still refer to me as Ma and they are in their forties. They often talk about the Christmas cookie bakes we would have and the May basket we made and hung on the doors on the first of May. We would be baking goodies for the baskets and then making them for weeks. At one time we hung or gave out in the nursing home over 200 baskets.
There was always a project in process so never a dull moment in my house. I wish in those days we had a huge old home like the one I now live in it would have been so wonderful to have this amount of room with all those kids.
Never the less that little house had walls of spandex; there was room for one more at the table, food to fill the plates and a place to sleep if needed. My kitchen table hosted many after school discussions, of topics that were never discussed at home. It was good that the kids had this place of safety in an every growing unsafe world.
I would often wonder at the mothers of these kids and all that they were missing by not being home with them. I enjoyed having my kids’ home playing where I could see them and know who they were with. The River Rats, they were all good friends and we did every thing as a pack. Some summers I took them to the beach and the movies in my old 9 passenger station wagon that would hold a lot more if you were creative. The drive- in movie was our place to go with bags of home made pop corn and jugs of cool aid. Once in the parking area we would spread out on blankets some on the roof of the wagon and some on the ground out front it was fun and the kids loved it.
We all found ways to raise money to go to the Fryeburg fair each year that was the biggest and most important fair in the state of Maine. We always packed a huge picnic basket and made a day of it. I could sit in an assigned place and have the kids check in at two hour intervals when they were older. They were very good at this because eventually they ran out of their money, and came looking to see if I would be willing to extend some.
The work around my house was done by this River Rat gang of kids, they helped me plant flowers and we dug some wild plants up from the near by woods for the yard it was really lots of fun to help them learn about the plants and to respect the earth.
For years after we lost one of the little Rat Pack boys who loved to help me garden, I watched his plants growing it helped me to miss him less. He was a wonderful boy and was hit by a car while crossing the road on a very busy high way. The whole neighbor hood mourned as one family when he passed. My own son is buried not to far from his grave so when I go to pay my respects to my son, I can also place a stone on the grave of this young person too.
So my jewels in my crown are all there, plus a few who were not mine but may as well be, sometimes I take out that crown and remember all the tears and love that they hold. Never for once would I trade that crown for what others had or considered important in life. Yes we did not have much materially but we were rich beyond all imagination in our family, friends, and children.
Copyright © 2007 by Waynonaha Two Worlds
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