My husband tells of driving his grandmother home from Thanksgiving dinner several years ago.  Every few minutes she would ask him if he had a family.  Patiently GD would say, “yes, my wife and kids are in the back seat” time after time.  (I was not this wife.)  I have told him he should have just asked her questions about herself, like how she met his grandpa and where they had lived, that sort of stuff.


I spent all day with my mother-in-law yesterday.  She has lots of family things on her mind, so to keep her distracted, I asked her some questions.  This is what I learned.  To give you a frame of reference, my mother-in-law got married in 1945.  She met her husband in 1943 at a barn dance when she was 16, he was 20.  (They still hold huge dances there every other weekend in the summer.)  He was the oldest son of a farmer, and was needed at home.  She admitted, looking back, she might have been uncomfortable letting her 16 year-old daughters date 20 year-old men.  They set up housekeeping in a small home near a creek in the canyon bottoms near the Niobrara River.  They moved to a larger, three bedroom house around 1954.  In 1967 they built their own spacious home with four bathrooms and eight bedrooms.


All told, she had eleven kids.  The oldest was born in 1948 and the youngest in 1968.  Originally she cooked on a three burner fuel-oil stove.  Later on they bought a combination stove which would burn wood or cobs on one side, and had gas burners on the other.  When they first married you could not buy a new washing machine, due to war recovery efforts.  She hung up her washboard sometime after their first anniversary, when they got a wringer washing machine.  Their first refrigerator, a propane model, came in 1952.  Prior to this she kept milk in a pail of cold water which she changed throughout the day to keep it cool.  She got electricity in her home, for just an iron and lights when she was pregnant with her third child in 1953.  They installed (cold) running water (picture a hand pump and a basin) and an electric clothes dryer when she had five kids in 1958.  They lived 15 miles from the locker plant and had six young kids when they bought their first freezer, now she has three and lives alone.  They got a TV in 1960.  The automatic clothes washer came when she had nine kids in 1965.  In 1967 they built a house with an unspeakable luxury, an indoor toilet.  At the time they had 10 children.  Everyone bathed in a round tin tub in the kitchen until they moved to the new house.  They installed their first dishwasher in 1992.  


She also gave me some tips on how many times you can re-use bath water and how to rinse out dirty diapers with no running water, but she made me promise not to tell anyone.


She said she just let the last three (all boys) just potty-train themselves.   *note to self, consider trying this…