Hi! Here’s a story to help you see past hard work.
Remember times when you thought life wasn’t sweet enough, but, once you’d gotten past the difficulty, the times were sweeter in hindsight?
When I was fourteen, my parents bought acreage in the backwoods of East Texas near the Big Thicket. We cleared briars and underbrush to build our home and make it into a little farm.
I hated the hot, physical labor of cutting, dragging and burning the tangled, prickly scrub. We wore jeans and long sleeves in the summer heat to protect our arms and legs, yet still the thorns and dead branches scratched and scrapped our skin. Not to mention the poison ivy and mosquitos that found their way around our protective gear. Well, you get the picture. And just so you know, clearing scrub is an ongoing chore. (When I graduated high school, our place looked like a park.)
We built our own home and since Dad was a carpenter—like the plumber whose faucets always leak, and the mechanic whose car doesn’t run well—our house was never completed. I thought life was hard. We always had work to do. My older sister, Wanda, and I carried shingles up the ladder to the roof where Dad took them off our shoulders and laid them on the black tar. Wanda and I soon tired of trekking up and down the ladder and made a game of how many we each could carry. It turned our work into fun. By the time we hoisted the last of the shingles, we were each proud to proclaim we had carried a full bundle up the ladder. We had learned to turn work into fun.
When our only milk cow, Granny, started producing bitter milk, Dad said it was the “bitter weeds” she ate. What he called bitterweed were scattered across five acres and had to be pulled up by the roots, which meant by hand—our hand. My siblings and I spent many a Saturday afternoon racing each other across our designated area to the finish line and the one who was able to pull the most won. Won what, you ask. Bragging rights. But more than that. With each chore we completed, came the prize of perseverance, teamwork, and pride in a job well done. I wonder if Dad knew that.
More than once in those four years of living on the farm, Dad sat on the front porch drinking coffee and smoking his hand rolled Bugler cigarette while I changed a flat tire on his truck. It infuriated me. How dare he sit and watch me without offering any help. Oh, he helped, alright. He yelled across the yard, “Be sure that jack is level before you start jacking it up.” And, “Put your back into it.” Or “Don’t carry it, roll it.” The audacity of his sitting there telling me what to do instead of doing it himself, made me so angry it gave me strength to pop the lug nuts and jack up the old blue ‘57 with a bumper jack. I might have struggled with the heavy tire, but soon lifted it and slammed it onto the wheel. It was years later, when I was stranded on the side of the road with a car full of groceries and a two-year old, that I understood the value of what my Daddy had done for me. He had taught me to be self-sufficient and determined. I thanked him.
My last summer at home, the county cleaned out the ditches up and down our road and Dad saw it as free fill dirt. He received truckloads of clay dirt filled with roots and dead limbs, chunks of glass and aluminum cans. By this time, my older sister had graduated, and left home. While Dad was at work, and my younger sisters helped in the house and watched our baby brother, Mom and I tackled piles of hard clay and rubbish with a pick axe and shovel. Not a teenager’s idea of a fun summer. It was hard work but became a great time of bonding for me and my mother. As we dug up gnarled roots and long crooked tree limbs that resembled legs and arms, I showed her how my siblings and I had learned to turn work into a game. Together we named the “body” Old Tom Walker. We found Old Tom’s pirate treasure of broken glass “jewels” and fine aluminum “silver” buried along with his body parts. Of course, he had more than four limbs, but we didn’t care. We laughed and nudged each other on as we looked for something akin to a head. I don’t think we ever did find Old Tom Walker’s head, but by the time we separated “jewels” and “silver,” from “limbs” and dirt, we had become more than mother and daughter, we had become friends.
Today, my Daddy has gone on to be with the Lord and my Momma has Alzheimer’s. But if I bring up Old Tom Walker, Mom knows the whole story. My childhood was fraught with hard lessons, some of which I used in parenting my own children. Try to find fun and laughter. They are sweet nuggets that will help you make it through.
Life is hard, but hang in there, it’s worth it. Click on my Banter and ask any questions you have. Let’s start a discussion.
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