Nostalgia: Chores and chocolate

By Rita Joan Dozlaw

Growing up, I loved Hershey’s Milk Chocolate candy bars. I also loved the aromatic foil inside the wrappers. I saved it. Along with the foil from inside my daddy’s cigarette packages, I scrunched the crinkly silver into heavenly-scented foil balls. They were everywhere in my room. I never got addicted to cigarettes, but I sure got addicted to milk chocolate. All I had to do to earn the two dimes—one, for a Hershey’s bar, was clean one room of our small house every week-end. Besides my own bedroom, I rotated between the living room, dining room and bathroom.

Mother was always in the kitchen and did not want me under foot so, thankfully, that one was out. So was my parent’s bedroom. My younger sisters had to clean their own rooms and also set the table every day and do dishes with our mother. I felt I got the rotten end of the stick—more to do than they had. But I earned a bigger allowance, so I did my chores.

My bedroom was the most fun. I re-arranged the stuffed dogs, my beloved Raggedy Anne and Andy dolls, and my Anne of Green Gables doll on the shelves. I loved pulling the soft chenille bedspread smoothly over my bed and plump up the pillow in its crisp white islet sham. I pushed my window open and propped it with a stick so I could smell the lilacs outside my window. I shook out the hook rug with the poodle on it and put my clean folded clothes away.

The living room was easy. Before dusting, I emptied daddy’s ashtrays. He left them, full of butts, on every lamp table and beside every chair. I gathered and folded his newspapers, which also covered every horizontal surface including the floor. I never understood how my fingers got so smudged picking up newspapers. In winter, I scooped fireplace ashes and soot into a dustpan and wiped off the mantelpiece carefully, so as not to knock off any knick-knacks. Then, I danced with a swirling dust mop in the center of the room. I always had to go under daddy’s chair with the mop cuz that’s where the sun ray shone in and exposed fuzzy dust bunnies. I didn’t mind the work… not like the bathroom!

With Windex, I wiped the dining room china cabinet’s glass doors until they squeaked and dusted the crumbs from the table cloth using a small silver brush n’ dustpan set. Spider webs behind the side-board got blind swiped, and the floor got swept with a dry mop around the unfinished hickory bench us three girls shared. I didn’t mind the work… not like the bathroom!

The bathroom was the worst except after daddy shaved! That’s when it smelled so good. His cologne and lotion bottles would be collectors items today with their beautiful Grand Turk ship and the fancy ‘Old Spice’ script in bright red. Since daddy was a workin’ man, he left a grimy sink, and the mirror over it was always spattered with smeary toothpaste. Even with Windex, it was a hit n’ miss to shine. The tub was awful; I had to sit right down in it to clean the sides off. I survived the bathroom till I got old enough, for double the dimes, to swab the toilet bowl with strong disinfectants. That’s when I thought I’d die; cuz, that job made me gag. I set a fresh roll of toilet paper on the back of the sparkling toilet and took an arm full of used towels to the ringer-washer. By thirteen, I also had to mop. I’d plunge the thick-headed beast into a bucket of water, then wring it out—hardest thing ever to do by hand—lastly, I mopped all the way to the hall.

I earned so many extra dimes cleaning the bathroom, I saved every precious one left over—after buying my Hershey’s bar. It took a long time, but finally I had enough to pay for a whole box of chocolate-covered cherries—for daddy. He shared most of them with me.

Rita Joan Dozlaw, of Kamloops, B.C., is a recipient of a Dr. Robert and Elma Schemenauer Writing Award at the Interior Authors Group in 2019.

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