Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Art of Homemaking OR A Tribute to My Mother

My mother was the 14th child of a Tennessee farming family and she brought into our home a vast store of knowledge about home arts. She could make a tasty meal out of nothing, clean a house from top to bottom in no time, make a beautiful dress from an old castaway and welcome any stranger with a smile and warm meal-- time and time again. Our home was a very cozy, inviting place with bright, homemade quilts and pillows, rugs and always the smell of baked goods. I learned so much from my mother’s example.

Due to my father’s job, we moved many times while growing up. I spent much of my childhood in Northern Canada (Yukon Territory) living in a very remote, but beautiful area. I remember living without electricity and having to run a small generator once a week in order to curl our hair with curling irons. We had to haul our water from the nearby creek or heat snow on the huge, black, wood cook stove in the winter for our weekly bath. Our house was so cold at night that the water would freeze in our drinking cups if left out. Being the oldest, I was the one who would have to get up in the night and take my sisters to the outhouse. We took a flashlight and a rifle every time. We didn’t trust the bears. (I’m not kidding)

We had some really lean years. It was too cold to keep beef cows, so most folks lived on moose and bear meat that they hunted. We were no exception, but one year we didn’t find a moose for our winter meat supply and so lived on beans and rice. Vegetables were always scarce. My mother never knew what my father would bring home to add to the pot. She would just take it without much comment -be it beaver tail, porcupine, rabbit or ptarmigan. (The porcupine was tough!)

We often had folks drop by our home unannounced and stay for supper. It never even fazed my mom; at least she never showed it. She always made them feel welcome. Once, a stranger dropped in wearing a bright pink three-piece suit and long, greasy hair. My parents treated him like an old friend and my mother cooked a huge meal for this obviously hungry traveler. The next morning we noticed that he had set up a tent in our front yard right by the outhouse. My sisters and I were quite upset, but my mother just told us that we would have to give him the outhouse for a while and we would use a bucket. He stayed for two weeks and ate A LOT of our food. At the end of the two weeks he invited us to share Thanksgiving with him. We weren’t thrilled at the prospect but went anyway. Evidently, he had rented a space in the little town 10 miles away and when we arrived we could not believe our eyes. A banquet was waiting for us that I cannot begin to describe. Everything you could imagine was served and it was absolutely beautiful with garnished side dishes and sweets of many kinds. We learned that day that he had been a professional chef and just wanted to show his gratitude for our hospitality.

I have tried to emulate my dear mother in these ways. She lived an ordered life, but was flexible whenever the occasion called for it. I loved my home, whether it was a cabin in the woods, a tent, or a trailer because my dear mother MADE it home. When I eventually left home and went to a university, I assumed that all mothers and homes were similar to mine. Not so. I have experienced some very inhospitable homes. It saddens me to think about this, and so I am writing this post because I guess I just wanted to encourage mothers to be earnest in this area. Anyone can build a house, but only some will make a home.

Blest be that spot where cheerful guests retire

To pause from toil, and trim their evening fire;

Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,

And every stranger finds a ready chair:

Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown’d,

Where all the ruddy family around

Laugh at the jest pity or pranks, that never fail,

Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale,

Or press the bashful stranger to his food,

And learn the luxury of doing good.

Oliver Goldsmith


  1. Great post! Even if it is a repost. It always pays to be generous even if you don't see the fruits of your labor for years to come!
    I thought that Turkey was an exotic place to live, but it seems you have made a habit of it. How amazing!

  2. CelticMom26.12.06

    Happy Boxing Day! Today is my first day back in the world of blogging in about two weeks, so imagine my surprise when I found you had moved! Do you mind if I ask what spurred your move?

    I so enjoyed this post, as it took me back to my growing up years of chopping wood and laying in a store for the winter, cooking on the woodstove when we lost power, snow up to our eaves, and a general feeling of comfort. What an interesting growing-up you must have had!

    I so desire to be more like your mother in the welcoming and unselfish arena, and less like me. Thank you for this beautiful post!

  3. This is OT and you are welcome to delete it, but I wanted to apologize for taking a bit to respond regarding your blog address change. It should be fixed now...I still have 200 more emails to go through!

  4. Traci, my husband and I sometimes forget that we are in an 'exotic' place. Once you live there for so long, it just becomes home. You get used to the sights that, at first, were unbelievable. Even speaking in another language becomes as mundane as washing clothes.

    Celtic Mom, HSB no longer allows javascript. This new decision erased half of my sidebar. This is why I moved over here. :-(

    I'm also trying to follow my mother's example. I'm learning that life is about people, not things.

    Dana, no need to apologize at all. Thanks so much for making the change quickly.

  5. What a beautiful tribute to your mother. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  6. What a blessing to have a mother like that as an example. Do you have any words of wisdom for Christian women struggling because they have no role models like that? Even with Christ in my heart I find myself emulating the less-than-gracious role models I had. Always trying to better myself in this area though, by the grace of God! Just discovered your blog and it's a help to me in this area-thank you!

  7. What a wonderful tribute to your Mom and what a convicting thing for me! I have been trying to be more hospitable as I wasn't trained that way by my Mother. It's joyous to have others in your home and I'm learning all about this! Thank you for your lovely post! It truly brightened my day!

  8. MamaPapa,

    A few thoughts come to mind:

    I believe that asking God DAILY for wisdom in this area is the single most important step in the right direction.

    Shun worldly wisdom. It's advice is too tempting. Throw out the parenting and women's magazines that give opposite advice and make you feel that if you could just have that or look like that or do this or travel there or have that particular would be better. Yuck. Very self defeating.

    Then, have a teachable heart and learn, learn, learn from others- search from those who have helpful advice and encouraging words, whether online, in books or around you. Don't be afraid to ask someone you admire to mentor you and don't expect perfection on their part. Many learned through their errors too and only now have something to say. Just be sure that their advice is in line with His advice.

    Aim high, realizing you will fail-A LOT. Failing is okay. Quitting is NOT okay. Don't be content with mediocrity. You were made for so much more.