Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Friday, January 29, 2010

The house (again)

My dear mother Rose (and the rest of our immediate family) lived in a tiny house that wasn't our own. She lived there for almost 45 years. The house was the church parsonage.

Anything mom wanted to do in the house, including painting the bathroom, she had to get permission from the church trustees to do. She could buy no new appliances when the old ones broke without their consent, because, after all, the new appliances wouldn't be hers. They belonged to the church. She couldn't buy carpet for any room in the house. Of course, the floors were hardwood (oak) and would be in style now, but the floors were cold, after the coal furnace was replaced.

She really wanted to carpet the attic where Deb's and my room was, but the church decided it was more thrifty (I suppose) to put down plywood and then paint it. It was very, very cold in the winter, and we were constantly fighting with splinters.

This isn't a criticism of the trustees. They had a job to do, and mom was grateful for any and all improvements they allowed.

My dear mother's kitchen was a 10 x 10 square room with a sink and counter (a small counter) on one wall. That wall included the back door, which made the space even smaller, and the sink was in the center of that counter. Since there was no dishwasher (were they even invented yet?) the dish drain was always a part of the kitchen counter.

It wasn't a very convenient kitchen by today's standards, but it was the warmest room in the house, the most congenial room, and we all congregated there and were under foot most of the time. Mom didn't seem to mind, she'd just put us to work.

The stove was opposite the sink. And that would have worked very well except the kitchen table was between the two entities. I guess today that would be considered an island. The refrigerator was within easy reach of the stove.

There was no pantry; not even enough cabinet space to store any groceries, except for cereal, sugar, flour, salt, and olive oil. They were spread through the few cabinets we had, and there was no rhyme or reason to where they were housed. But we knew where they were, and that's what mattered.

Mom's "pantry" was the basement. Basically, it was in a jelly cabinet (which I absolutely loved). Mom also had storage under the basement stairs which contained a large closet -- a closet which my father told us housed the entrance to a tunnel that connected the house to the church. We never found that tunnel, but my father was adamant that it was there. My mom stored her canning supplies in there, and her home-made canned goods as well. So the full jars were put in there after canning season and then as we used up the food, the empty jars were put back in that closet.

The basement also housed a huge freezer which mom and dad purchased when I was in fifth grade.

Now when I talk about the basement, I mean basement. It was an unfinished space. The walls were cement. The floor was cement and very uneven, and full of cracks. But, it was clean. Mom made sure of that. At least once a month mom and I would don our scarves and tie them around our heads, then mom would sprinkle the floor with water to keep the dust down, and we would sweep. I had to make sure that the broom got into all the nooks and crannies of the ceiling, which was basically the flooring for the upstairs.

I had to make sure I got all the spiders out of the corners. And, there were always spiders in that basement. There were always centipedes in that basement. And, there were always silverfish, lots of silverfish, in that basement. Most of all I hated the centipedes (thousand leggers).

We didn't spray insecticide in the corners, but we should have. Dad had one of those old-fashioned debuggers with the long pusher and can on the end of the pusher. I suppose that we could have eliminated a lot of bugs if we had thought to do so, but I think mom would rather spend a day cleaning than smell the debugging stuff.

Me? I have on compunctions about killing bugs in any way I can. I don't like bugs of any sort.

I must add as an afterthought: Where I live now, I have the perfect kitchen (for me) and I absolutely love it. But I must admit that I never had any problem with that old kitchen in Runnemede. And I was thinking that it was no wonder I was such a skinny kid what with the food being in the basement, and my bedroom being in the attic. I got exercise -- built in Stairmaster!

Today's BLOG was written in an e-mail to my daughter when I was remembering how similar her kitchen is to the kitchen in which I grew up. She lives in a house that has a similar floor plan to the house in Runnemede, which makes visits to her sort of like going home



Rose said...

Jamie refinished that jelly cupboard for me for my birthday and it is now the home of many musical instruments :-) It lives in the "parlour" with the piano- a room similar to your Mum's room with the stairs leading up to the attic bedrooms in it.
Is it your oldest, sweet girl who has the house like Gramma's? Did you think ours was similar, too?
We've moved a table into the kitchen now, too, but the lack of counter space is really annoying sometimes! ;-) It's still home and the reason we're here is because it reminded me so much of that little house in Runnemede.
God bless you!
We love you bunches!!
Rose & Cody

Judi Hahn said...

Yes, I thought your home was like my mom's. Any chance you all are going to be able to go to Runnemede for the 100th anniversary. It's the weekend of May 22-23. The church is footing the bill for at least one night's stay and feeding us. We all want to go to the diner for at least one meal (on our own). Hope to get together with Heather and Kristen,and Joe, and my brothers, Lori, Emily, Micah, and their children, and Becky and Phil. Cyndi isn't going.