I was standing in line at a hospital cafeteria last week during Spring Break when I overheard a couple of nurses ahead of me in line talking. They were a few customers ahead of me. I wasn’t trying to overhear but the distress in the small nurse’s tone over leaving her eleven-year-old daughter at home alone while she was at work caused her voice to carry and because she was ahead of her friend in line her head was turned my direction.
I heard her say, “She’s only eleven, I’ve never left her home alone while I’m working before. I’ve left her when I take her brother to soccer but that’s not all day.” I heard her friend murmur something. I couldn’t make it out because she was facing away from me. Then the small nurse answered, “Yeah, I told her no cooking, don’t open the door, just stay in and play on her phone all day.” My mind did a loop-de-do… by nine I was babysitting across our small town and earning pocket change. That was back when phones were attached to the wall and moms left a list of contact numbers on an index card (we called them recipe cards) pasted to the wall beside the phone. I’m way old school. Then I thought about when I was eleven.
When I was eleven Grandpa (then Dad) needed to fetch a piece of equipment and Grandma (then Mom) wanted to go too but there was a cow to milk, steers to water, chickens to feed, things that just couldn’t be left unattended. I remember the conversation at the dinner table before they left and how the two of them discussed leaving us kids alone on the farm for a few days so they could fetch whatever it was a piece of equipment. In the end they took a few days break from us kids. We stayed home; got the Datsun truck stuck after running up to the country store; did I mention I’m the oldest child in the family? Of course, the truck didn’t get stuck where it had been parked when Mom and Dad left so we started the tractor; pulled the truck out of the sand; parked both the tractor and the Datsun back where they had been. We thought we were so slick getting away with it. Years later I found out Mom and Dad knew all along because they saw the marks in the sand where the Datsun was stuck. I thought about Muana’s hubby who at ten taught himself to drive a tractor; how she would catch a bus across town to fetch groceries alone; how my late husband rebuilt his first transmission and Aunt Cece climbed trees at ten years old; how Grandpa wrote ‘Mavis’ in red, black, white, blue and all kinds of colors on a piece of paper making a ‘pretty-pretty’ to give to the girl named Mavis when he was nine years old; how Grandma at six years picked asparagus on the ditch banks with a paring knife and a paper bag. In real time this took less than a second. As I was considering these things in less than a second the silver-haired customer just in front of the two nurses with a tray in her hand turned towards them (and me) as she reached for silverware. Facing me, I heard her say, “When did we become helicopter moms?”
Her silver-topped head had tipped downwards looking at the silverware until words came out of her mouth. Then she looked up at the two nurses and all of us behind them. I saw the look on her face, and it held the, ‘I can’t believe I said that. Did I actually say what I was thinking out loud?’ look. The nurses behind her in line got quiet. A contrite look passed across silver hair’s features because let’s face it; it’s OK to overhear conversations held in public and have opinions in mind, but it’s flat out rude to interject into a private conversation held in a public space unless invited in.
For a moment the distraught nurse froze and didn’t say a thing. Then she must have seen what I saw and had kindness in her heart because I heard her murmur something to which silver hair replied, “my mom just kicked us outside and said go play.”
I saw small nurse’s body relax, her back to me I heard her murmur again then saw silver hair’s face relaxed and she said, “I think it’s because we’ve forgotten to make friends with our neighbors,” she smiled contritely; finished picking up her silverware; dipped her head slightly; turned away to pay her tab at the cashier’s counter then made her way to a cafeteria table. The two nurses paid for their trays of food and headed down the hall to parts unknown. I quietly followed through the food line and took my turn paying the cashier all the while thinking of my own children. I tried hard not to become a helicopter mom, still, I know there were times when I was one. I thought of the things I did to be a good mom. Not sure I was the best at the job, but I am sure I did my best. My kids didn’t get any sugar the first year of their lives (on their first birthday Grandpa remedied that!) and I made my own baby food…
Homemade Peas for Baby Food
½ cup frozen peas
Put frozen peas in the blender with a splash of water. Turn on the blender, let blend for a bit, add water until peas are all chopped. Put in small dish and serve baby with a baby spoon.
Note: Baby food isn’t hard to make. A blender, water and food are all that’s needed. I followed a ‘food introduction chart’. A doctor can supply a chart of what and when to introduce the foods. Quite frankly when it came to food for my babies, I figured I could blend in two thirds water just as easily as any corporation could. However, I had one solid rule: food older than 48 hours wasn’t fed to my babies and all food had to be refrigerated. I was very careful about what my babies ate. That’s just me.
In 2000 Michele Priddy left the work force to become a stay-at-home mother and wife. Being a one-income family in today’s society meant she had to learn to budget quickly. Food became a priority early because she wanted the children to have the best nutrition, she could offer them even on a budget. She also taught cooking classes on how to stretch the food dollar with simple ingredients at various churches in her community. Michelle has put her kitchen strategies and recipes in booklets, her church newsletter and in her hometown newspaper, The Goldendale Sentinel. We hope you will enjoy her strategies, stories, and recipes. You can contact the Leavenworth Echo at Reporter@leavenworthecho.com or 509-548-5286 if you have any questions or comments for Michelle.
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