Kids these days get paid to do housework; a sort of stipend for making their bed and folding the laundry.
We never had that luxury.
All children in the Waechter household had to work to stay each summer. That’s being dramatic, of course. We were expected to help around the house and the farm. That’s just part of being a kid in the country. Maybe you did, too?
When the weather got warm and school was out Mom pulled out the job jar. That old pickle container held several pieces of paper full of responsibilities.
I always wanted the bathroom. It was small and easy. Unfortunately, I remember getting the utility room which often consisted of folding clothes and scrubbing the laminate flooring with a toothbrush.
It was as awful as it sounds.
When I pulled out the tiny strip of paper that read, “pick beans” my heart was happy. Mom and Dad had a huge garden. I can close my eyes and still see it; every corner full of ripe produce. Sweet corn and carrots, strawberries and cantaloupe, snap peas and cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans, lettuce and peppers, squash and zucchini. It was a beautiful mess of earth and vines all perfectly put into rows, sometimes surrounded by flowers. I remember the zinnias, mostly. Big, gorgeous blooms – perfect to pick and set on our kitchen table.
I liked picking beans the most. It wasn’t a chore for me. It was a chance to get outside and stand in that huge garden. I used an old ice cream bucket to gather the goods – often filling it two or three times before being finished.
In the evenings just before the sun went to sleep, my sister and I would sit on the porch swing and watch the lighting bugs gather in that garden. They too loved everything about its bounty. So did the chickens – and the sheep – and the rabbits; which didn’t bode well with mom, of course.
My sister and her husband live on the farm now. They took over the garden this year and it was beautiful; full of all the things I remember as a kid.
But last week, storms hit. Mid-summer storms are always dangerous. I couldn’t sleep the night they rolled in. Admittedly, I was nervous about my own small garden of pumpkins and zinnias. But my heart ached most for the farmers. Early summer rain made the corn beautiful this year. Most fields were bountiful – many aren’t anymore.
I sent a text to my sister that night.
“Did the storm hit you guys?”
“The garden is leveled, Les. I’m so sad! It was so pretty.”
It was. I bet yours was, too. And the corn fields were stunning. I’m so sorry you lost your crops. We all are.
My tiny garden is still standing. The storm moved over my home – this time, leaving the pumpkins and zinnias untouched. My girls are helping me care for them each day. They water and pick weeds and at night gather to watch the lighting bugs flutter over the vines.
It’s part of their daily routine. My youngest calls it her “chores.” Most chores don’t involve big smiles and excitement. But they do, when you’re a kid caring for the land in Nebraska. We’re lucky like that.
It’s definitely better than folding clothes or scrubbing the floors. My girls would agree. I think you would, too.