Sunday, November 13, 2011

House Dresses


I only remember one time when I saw my grandmother in anything but a house dress. It was later on in her life. She was going berry picking in a pair of jeans. That image was odd to say the least because growing up, she always wore a house dress; sort of like June Cleaver and Harriet Nelson but more down-to-earth like the Waltons.

My grandmother worked from the minute she got up to the minute she went to bed. I guess you could say when she went downstairs in the morning, she was reporting in to work wearing her uniform. Functional, with pockets, her house dress with its lose fit freed her to move fast, cook fast, mend and sew and knit fast, bake bread and prepare meals and clean-up after fast, tend to six daughters fast, help her husband in the barn and fields and gardens fast and deal with everything else in between through four seasons, seven days a week even faster.

She had a few house dresses. They were always clean and neat and complimented her as she moved about the old farmhouse which would have been comparable to today's woman in the workplace. That rambling home with its front veranda was her office. The kitchen was her board room. The long, pine table was where board members met to enjoy home-cooked meals and partake in conversations on a daily basis. Instead of stocks and bonds and trends, discussions focused on chores and family matters and more chores.

I dare say the work was harder and the hours longer in my grandmother's office. She never closed for holidays. She didn't benefit from paid vacations or sick leave or health insurance. Work as it is defined was real work back then. And even though she never wore pants, everyone knew she "wore the pants" in that office while wearing a house dress with pockets.

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