Not seeing anyone in the kitchen, I bellowed, “Mom? Where are you?” My mother’s answer sounded far-off and unintelligible. Remembering that it was Monday, I nodded and said to myself, “Oh. It’s wash day. She’s in the basement.”
Having located Mom, now my only thought was to take care of the hungry rumble in my belly. Sunshine flooded into the kitchen through the window over the sink as I glanced around at the counters, looking for something to eat that would be easy to make. Seeing half a loaf of homemade white bread sitting cut-side down on the bread board, I had a sudden craving for a soft poached egg resting on a slice of buttered bread.
Carefully pulling the small pan we used to poach eggs out from the cupboard, I put water in it and set it on the stove. As the egg cooked, I cut and buttered a slice of bread. I felt proud of how independent I was becoming. A few moments later I slid the hot egg onto the bread and broke the yolk so it could soak into the bread.
Taking a bite, I sighed with satisfaction. It tasted even better than I had remembered. Carrying the treat on the tips of my fingers, I started down the basement steps so I could have Mom’s company while I ate. Mom was standing at the wringer washing machine feeding sudsy work clothes into the two revolving rollers. She glanced up at me and said, “Good. You found yourself something to eat.”
I sat down on the steps and said, “This is so yummy!”
The clothing Mom put through the wringer landed in a wash tub full of clear water. I watched as she swung the wringer arm of the machine. The batch of clothing was in the first rinse tub. It had to be wrung out, put into the second rinse tub and then run through the wringer again before it would be ready to be hung on the clothes line in the backyard.
As I slowly ate my delicious breakfast, a trickle of the thick yellow yolk ran down my fingers. Not wanting to lose a drop of the precious fluid, I avidly licked my fingers clean. We heard a tractor in the yard. Mom said, “Daddy’s going out to windrow the hay. We’ll be baling this afternoon.”
I nodded and said, “I’ll help unload the wagon.” Until a few years ago, there had always been plenty of older brothers and sisters around to do chores. Now, as the youngest of seven children, I felt like an only child. The other six were hardly home at all anymore. Two sisters were married, two sisters were working away from home, one brother had just left for the military service and the other brother was always either working or fishing.
To manage with our greatly reduced work force, Daddy had bought a baler that could kick the bales into the wagon and Mom had gone back to doing the milking chores with Daddy. I was pressed into service for helping herd the cows to the barn for the afternoon milking, help unload wagons, and sometimes feeding the chickens and cats.
Just as Mom had said, Daddy baled hay all afternoon. Whenever he brought a full wagon into the yard and parked it next to the barn, I went out with a bale hook and helped him pull bales off and onto the hay elevator. As we worked, he told me interesting historical tidbits that he’d read.
The hot, muggy day wore me out just as much as the unaccustomed work. As the shadows became longer and a bit cooler Mom and Daddy began the milking while I carried kitchen scraps to the chickens and table scraps to the barn cats.
When the work of the day was over, I realized how hungry I felt. I said, “Mom, I want something to eat. This afternoon, I wasn’t interested in anything, but now I am.”
Mom said, “The heat took away your appetite. I’ll make you a scrambled egg.”
I sat down at the kitchen table and watched as she beat an egg, poured it into a buttery skillet and a minute later slide it out onto a plate for me. As good as my poached egg had tasted that morning, this egg tasted even better. I reasoned to myself, “This egg is special because it was made with love…and a ton of butter!”