As my busy, creative Saturday afternoon drifts off into an evening that I’m sure will be filled with good things (Movies! Popcorn!), I started thinking about my Saturdays as a kid, a really young kid, which means two things: walking to the library and cleaning out the fridge.
Let me start with the latter – the refrigerator. It begins with my mother, who grew up in a household with a full-time maid. She didn’t have to do housework, not even make her bed (and sometime I will tell you the infamous story of my mother, the maid & the Home Ec teacher). Sadly, and somewhat to my lasting regret, this is not a condition under which I, or my five siblings, were raised. In our mother’s approximation, if you could walk, you could make a bed. If you could eat, you could do dishes. And then there were other chores meted out, depending on your size, your age, and your inclination.
My mother wasn’t exactly a fuss budget about these things, but neither did she want the effect to look as if something needed cleaning again. So if you really loathed scrubbing toilets, some poor sibling would get that job and, to make up for it, you would get TWO jobs to do. In the poor-me, I-suffered-so-badly, recesses of my Dickensian brain, it seems to me I did a lot of chores others somehow never had to do, i.e. 17 loads of laundry every weekend and doing a basket full of ironing on Sunday nights (thank goodness for “Sunday Night at The Movies” or there would have been wrinkled clothes for everyone come Monday morning). But this I know for sure: that refrigerator had to be cleaned out every Saturday morning and I got to do it.
All the leftovers that couldn’t be turned into Goof or soup were chucked. The grungy bits of lettuce leaves and smooshed up bits of cucumber that were stuck to the bottom of the crisper were swished away when cleaning said crispers with hot, soapy water. Jars were checked for content level (“Who keeps putting empty mustard jars in this refrigerator… Ross??”), had their lids tightened harder than they were coming from the factory, and then wiped clean with a hot, soapy cloth. (We were very keen on hot, soapy cloths in our household.) Eggs were counted – never less than three dozen to start the week, please. Milk goes on the right, at the front, but juice pitchers stay at the back. (“Do we need cook cheese?” “No! There are 2 tubs in there now! You’re the only one who eats that stuff.”). I still clean my refrigerator this way, to this day. Only it’s not as much fun without the hollering reminders (“We do not throw out vegetables that could be used for soup!” “But you haven’t made soup in two weeks!” “Well, I could make it this week!”).
The other memory is going to the library. I’ve been thinking about this again over the past few days because I’m going to enter the Dorothy Shoemaker Writing Contest at the Kitchener Public Library. It’s been mumbledy-mumble years since I last entered… and won, as I recall… and I’ve decided to give it another go.
In a different age category, I should add.
See, I remember Dorothy Shoemaker. Miss Shoemaker, if you please. Not even Miss Dorothy, but Miss Shoemaker. Who was, to me, a perfect goddess of books, the controller of all things that made life wonderful and exciting and worthwhile – the Kitchener Public Library. Miss Shoemaker was the Children’s Librarian; this was back in the day when there was a children’s section, completely separate, by two sets of very heavy doors, from the adult section. And woe betide the child who traveled to the adult section on her own.
I loved that place as a child. It was filled with books. Books that you could borrow and take home and read and re-read. Books that made you laugh or cry or sometimes both. Books that made you believe in magic and hope for adventure. Books that taught you things and scared you and thrilled you and, sadly, sometimes bored you. But when that happened, well, there were still more books!!
Every Saturday, after my bed was made and the refrigerator cleaned, I was set free to walk, from my house to the library on Queen Street. 12 blocks, some of which were very long blocks, down Samuel Street to Frederick Street, past Suddaby School and then to the library. I walked every step, with an arm load of books, so many books sometimes it seemed to passersby that there were more books than me!!
Can you imagine that happening today? A little girl, walking so far, all alone? To me, it was wonderful. I rarely had a sibling with me – none of them were as keen on walking so far just for a few books! – so I was alone (oh, bliss. oh, joy) and I was going to the library.
I should say, just to keep people from condemning my parents for being so cruel and/or stupid (neither of which they were), that I was physically little, but I was 9 before I was allowed to make the trip by myself. That was Grade 5 for me, and not unusually for that time, Grade 5 was a pretty independent time, time for kids to be out doing things like this on their own. Also, if the weather was really inclement, seriously poor (a little drizzle didn’t count, and snow that was already on the ground certainly didn’t count), then I would get driven. One way for sure.
As great as going to the library was, coming back was almost better, because I would read on the way. I would balance my pile of books in my arms, fingers intertwined to provide a better hold, and put the book I wanted to read first on top. Using my nose – once I had the book open to the first chapter – I would read and turn pages as I walked home. Sometimes I would have a book completely read by the time I made it through the back door of the house!
That poor Saturday child who worked hard for
a living a trip to the library still loves a clean refrigerator and books, almost in equal measure, and is forever grateful to her parents, to Miss Shoemaker, and to the Kitchener Public Library for giving her lovely Saturday memories.