Beware the Ides of March

Mom and me in the 1990s.
My mom and me in the 1990s.

Today would have been my mother’s birthday. The Ides of March. (Mom died New Year’s Day.) Today I’m going to my brother’s house and we will reminisce and have dinner with family including my mom’s little sister who is 13 years younger than mom.

My mom often told me that she raised her little sister.

My cousin wrote me a loving sympathy letter that included a funny story I had never heard before about Mom, my aunt (my cousin’s mom) and red squares.

My aunt had a friend over and my mom, as the older sister, had them in a competition to earn red cloth squares. I’m not sure what ages they were, but Mom had them busy doing chores. They would earn a red cloth square for finishing their chore first.

I talked to my aunt about it and she said whoever earned the most red squares won the grand prize. She said she wanted the grand prize more than anything!

She won — and the grand prize turned out to be a bigger red cloth square.

Mom was a strong Christian and I have memories of her giving us a Bible verse each morning. She typed hundreds of them on 3 1/2 by 2″ cards.

She was big on chores and that’s one thing I despised the most coming home from school. We’d come home to an empty house, as latch key kids when Mom was earning her degree in Music at the University of Washington. She already had a degree in Home-Ec Education. Mom would leave a legal-sized yellow sheet of college-ruled paper with both sides filled with chores to be done before she got home. She had an ineligible scrawl that was hard to read.

I realize now, she not only wanted dinner cooked, the dishes done, the house vacuumed, the garage swept (you get the idea) — she was keeping my brother and I out of trouble. She was keeping us busy.

Tomorrow we spread her ashes at our riverfront property.

Here’s a photo of her in her teens or early twenties at the river.

What chores did you have growing up? Did you have your children do chores too?

44 thoughts on “Beware the Ides of March

  1. Beautiful photos, Elizabeth – thanks for sharing those plus the sweet story about the red squares. Wow — the ‘grand prize’ was just a bigger square, eh? Maybe prized for quilting projects (I don’t want to judge!) Sending hugs to you as you celebrate your lovely mother tomorrow. 💕

  2. Hugs on your Mom’s birthday. Glad you and your brother can get together and your Aunt! Hope its a special time about sharing memories.
    Haha about the red square of cloth story.
    A wise mom with the chores being that she wasn’t home to watch you it would have been easier to get into trouble.
    We were fairly lax on chores, but the kids did have to keep a clean room and helped with the dishes . They are both responsible young adults now so I guess we weren’t too lax. LOL!
    I fell into the “I can get it done a lot quicker, if I do it myself” mindset and don’t need to hear whining!

    • Thank for all your kind comments. My mom was good at keeping us busy. I feel for the “my kids are so busy with homework and swimming, etc. that I need to do everything for them.” Not helpful I found out later. But they survived. The funniest thing was on summer vacation we rented a cottage at the beach for years. It didn’t have a dishwasher, so the kids had to do dinner dishes. Whenever it was my daughter’s turn, she broke out in hives all over. She told us she was allergic to doing the dishes. I think it was the latex gloves!

      • What chores did you have growing up? I was also a latchkey kid but my mom preferred the phone when assigning chores. I remember vacuuming, dusting and starting dinner, the smallest and easiest chores now that I think about it.

        Did you have your children do chores too? We tried, my ex and I, but I think the only one who really succeeded was our nanny. My kids would complain that Rosa made them do things like empty their trash, and even read, while she didn’t do the same with her son. But they were in my house so IDK, maybe she had him do it in her house. They lived with her mom who ended up nannying the kids of one of my coworkers. I’m pretty sure she would have put Ernesto to work!

        I was going to ask what chores your kids did, but after reading this response I guess there were not many. I wrote a few of my recent memories of my mom here.

      • Thanks for sharing. The chores my mom would list for us including yours, plus sweeping out the garage, the outdoor steps, weeding, cleaning out the hallway closet, laundry, scrubbing the toilet and tub, cleaning out the art cupboard, cleaning our bedrooms and closets, on and on and on!

  3. Wow – what an intense week for you, Elizabeth. Happy birthday to your mom – I love all the memories you include here. Hope your time together and spreading her ashes is beautiful! <3

  4. That’s a funny story about the red squares!
    We did have chores, but not quite so many. We were paid a generous allowance for doing them. Our parents wanted us to learn to manage our money from an early age. It was a good lesson, as were the chores.

  5. It’s funny you said this but over the weekend my daughter asked what my parenting regrets were, and I answered that I should have given her more chores. At the time I thought she was doing so much, why should I make her get up earlier (when she was already getting up early) to make her own breakfast, or asking her to set the table when she would walk in at 8pm after a tennis match and I knew she still had three hours of homework, a shower and eating in her future. In theory she was supposed to set and clear the table and keep her room straight and brush the pets every day

  6. I love the beautiful memories you are sharing here, but I ache for your loss and pray you had the strength to make it through a difficult week. I believe I had more chores than my kids did but our kids were in sports and that seemed like a job on some level. Hugs to you, C

    • My week was filled with peace and love. Totally unexpected. I feel so much better after having spent time with friends and family to remember Mom. I felt the same way with my kids swimming and my son had so many other activities, too. I did all the chores so they could focus on school, music and athletics.

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