Struggling for a topic I began writing a list of chores I need to do today.  I was reminded of other lists.  Mammy’s lists.

They were usually written on the corner of the enamel topped kitchen table.  It might go like this:


The stamps were for the four letters she wanted to reply to before the weekend.  She was the letter writer in the family.  Unlike today where it is possible to weigh and then purchase the postage online, we needed to walk to the Post office and stand in line to get the stamps.

Buttons missing from coats, jackets or shirts were a regular occurrence with the gang of boys in the house.  The task of replacing them was passed to me.  It was one job I actually enjoyed.

Ironing seemed to be endless there were always shirts, dresses and the tablecloths & napkins that needed to be dipped in the cold water starch.  Do you remember the little boxes of Robin Starch powder.  The collars and cuffs of the shirts were dipped in the bowl of starch first and then squeezed out and then folded onto the front of the shirt and rolled, it was then set on a tray and soon the bundle became a mound as the others were added.  Dresses were next and they were added to the pile.  Finally the tablecloths and napkins were immersed and the starch allowed to soak into them.  Again they were squeezed out (all this squeezing was done by hand!) and placed on the tray.

There was an order to ironing and no way would it change.  SHIRTS WERE FIRST!   Daddies first, and then the boys.  The were all folded and you would think they had just come out of the packet.  It was not unusual to have 15 shirts to iron at a session, add to that blouses and dresses for mammy, my sister and myself and then five or six tablecloths a week.  To this day if something is spilled on a table cloth a chant will ring out “This is the fifth table cloth this week”!

Grass was one for the boys, it was one way to use up excess energy.  The garden at the back was large and long.  It was mainly grass with narrow borders.  In my very young days we had a trellis about a third of the way down and behind it were ten apple trees.

The top patch was where we played and if the ball hit the kitchen or French windows twice we were banished to the field over the wall at the end of the garden.

Windows. A bucket of cold water with a good dash of vinegar, the chamois and newspapers were the tools for this task.  We all had turns at cleaning windows.  Mammy would do the inside and send one of us outside to finish the job.  All panes were closely inspected and many times we were sent back outside in the cold of winter to re do a pane or two.

Bread this usually meant that the supplies were running short and another batch needs to be made before morning!  If time was short it might be a batch of white and brown scones!

Shoes at least eight pairs, one for each member of the family.  We older children had this task.  Daddy never polished a shoe in his life.  At least by the end of the task all frustrations were well worked off and the line of gleaming shoes was pleasing.

What was on your list?

17 thoughts on “Lists

  1. Rhyelysgranny

    Oh that takes me back. I loved the shoe polishing. I still hate ironing with a passion and Hubby sews the buttons. I still use vinegar and newspapers for the windows……………………….when I eventually get round to doing them.
    I love the way you stir all these memories. Takes me back to the carefree days of childhood with long sunny summer days. Sigh. Why is it the sun always shines in happy memories?

  2. Grannymar Post author

    Marie – I should use Mammy’s lists more often, they give plenty of food for thought! 😀

  3. Grannymar Post author

    RG – You slipped in there when I had my back turned. 😉 I do remember wet days from the past, but somehow they were not as colourful so blend into the murky grey. Did you have to polish the underside between the heel and the sole? We did!

  4. Rhyelysgranny

    Yes between the heel and sole too. I always wanted to write something cheeky on the sole of my father’s shoes but was too afraid of the consequences. 🙂

  5. Grannymar Post author

    Judy – 😆 I thought I was bad with Nine, mind you one of them is floor to ceiling and wall to wall!

  6. Baino

    Makes me realise how many short cuts we take these days. I don’t think I’ve polished shoes since the kids were at school. My mother was similar, even though she worked full time, she still did most of the housework washing, ironing and there was always a meal prepared.

  7. nick

    I have a list of chores for today, but also a list of chores for the next few weeks. Like you, I would be lost without them, half the things on the lists would be forgotten.

  8. wisewebwoman

    Extraordinary this GM, I have a post about Mammy letters today. I am a list maker too. So was Mum. I can’t operate my life without one!
    Oh the shirts and the tablecloths in a house full of messy men! It is hard to look back and think of all the labour in running a house then.

  9. Darlene

    The older I get the more lists I make and then forget where I put them. I recently paid for groceries and the bag boy left one bag on the counter. I discovered that I was missing some items and made a list of them to take to the store for replacement. By the time I got to the store I had lost the list and forget one rather expensive item. I didn’t remember it until I found the original missing list. Now I’m too ashamed to go back to the store and ask for a replacement. I made such a to-do over it when it first happened I am just going to forget it. :-0

    When I was first married my husband worked 6 days a week and when we went to church on Sunday that meant I had 7 white shirts to starch collars and cuffs and iron. I blessed permanent press when it came in, although you still had to iron it. It was much easier to do, though. I also ironed my sheets. Now I think I was an idiot.

  10. Grannymar Post author

    Baino – Running a house is so much easier these days yet we we still complain about all thye work and little time to do it!

    Nick – Having a list is no promise to do all the chores, but it helps.

    WWW – I loved the poem, it tugged at my heart.

    Darlene – I still iron my duvet, sheet and pillow covers and my linen glass cloths…. OK! I am mad; but that is the way I like it!

  11. Alice

    I hate sewing buttons! If I could get there before nightfall, could I bring my bag of things that need buttons over?
    I enjoyed the deluge of memories your list and ironing routine brought on. I sort of enjoy ironing myself, but enjoy even more wearing crisp, neat blouses and creased slacks and apologize to no one about it. I draw the line before ironing bed linens though I do like the pillow slips pressed and sometimes I press the top if there are fancy pleats that need smoothing etc. Nice memories. My mom used to fold the hankies and pile them one on top of the other, then she’d habitually give the stack a final pat–okay, that’s done–that contented gesture seemed to say. I guess I’m something like her as I do the same.

  12. Grannymar Post author

    Alice – I will do the sewing if we can go through your button box and hear the history of the buttons. 💡 Might be an idea for a blog post! 😀


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