The Milkman Cometh
Stumbling down Memory Lane
There are some memories that seem to stay with us a lifetime, but they are so mundane in nature, so extraordinary in their ordinariness, that we are left wondering why we remember them at all.
An early morning in bed, the house quiet, the last threads of sleep tiptoeing from my brain, in the year of our Lord, 1953. I was five at the time, and we had just moved into a new home on North 18th Street in Tacoma, Washington. I had my own bedroom, and the window was open on a summer’s morn that promised adventure and excitement. A gentle breeze made the curtains flutters, the birds announced the arrival of that new day, and then a new sound…..the clinking of glass on cement….and sleep was pushed aside completely as I rose from bed and tiptoed to the living room and the source of that sound.
The milkman cometh!
For those of you young whippersnappers with no knowledge of this piece of ancient times, milk companies, at one time, used to deliver milk to your doorstep, and the milk was packaged in glass bottles. After you emptied a bottle you put it back on your doorstep, and the milkman would replace it with a full one during his next deliver.
Like I said, extraordinary in its ordinariness.
It turns out my mother was already up that Saturday morning. She had already done a load of wash, and she was outside hanging that finished load on the clothesline. I’m sure there were electric dryers available in 1953, but we couldn’t afford one, so our clothes dried on the line outside during summers, and they dried on a clothes rack inside during the winters.
And oh, how I loved the feel and the smell of those clothes, after they had dried outside.
Would you like to join me as I walk through that Saturday so many years ago? Well, then, let’s go.
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
We officially began our weekend mornings by sitting down together and eating breakfast as a family. I asked once why we did this, and my mother told me because that is what “families” do. That explanation made no sense to me when I was five. Today it does.
After breakfast the morning was filled with chores. My dad always had a list of errands and chores that grew longer as Saturday approached, and after the last crumb was eaten from our plates, he and I would head outside to tackle that to-do list. I know what you are saying: you were only five, Bill; surely you weren’t doing chores then?
Well, yes, yes I was. Nothing too tough, mind you, but the concept of doing chores and helping the family was taught to me at an early age. I had things I was expected to do, and the older I got, the longer my list of chores grew. But at that early age of five, I was mostly expected to work alongside my dad as he mowed the lawn, repaired things around the house, and my favorite father/son chore….the monthly trip to the dump.
Was I paid an allowance? Yes I was, and I was taught at that early age how to budget and save. My money went into a piggy bank, and it became very clear very early on that if I spent my money I would simply have to wait until I earned more, no matter how badly I wanted the new comic book. There were no credit cards in those days. People dealt in cash, and they bought according to available cash, and that’s just the way it was in our family.
The average credit card debt in America, per person, is $4,878.
Again, we sat down as a family and ate lunch, and then after lunch I was released from work detail to play with my friends. There were a great number of kids in our neighborhood, so afternoons were spent wrestling on the lawn, or playing ball, or riding our trikes or bikes, or my favorite activity, making up new games. Rain or shine you could find us outside. As I got older my universe grew, and then bikes were owned and miles traversed, and friendships grew in number and possibilities multiplied exponentially….and it was a glorious childhood.
One of every three Americans is now consider obese.
Everyone knew me in that neighborhood, and the other parents looked after all the kids, and often we would be invited to a doorstep and given a cookie or a glass of milk as our playing continued.
We learned about friendships in that neighborhood, and we learned about community there. We learned that helping each other was not a chore but a basic human requirement, and long before the Three Musketeers coined the phrase, we learned that all for one and one for all was a pretty damned good way for society to function.
“I woke up one morning thinking about wolves and realized that wolf packs function as families. Everyone has a role, and if you act within the parameters of your role, the whole pack succeeds, and when that falls apart, so does the pack.”
Dinner was served at five sharp daily, and everyone was expected at the dinner table. As I grew older, I learned this was not up for debate. I was told that my mother worked hard to prepare the meal, family time was important, and if I was late there would be repercussions.
And that was as it should be.
Weekend dinners were always special, a time to relax, enjoy a nice meal, and share stories and laughter.
And that was as it should be.
After dinner there was more play time followed by family television time, usually for an hour or two, and then one of my favorite times of the day….being tucked into bed by my parents. Mom would arrive at my bedside first, checking to make sure I had brushed my teeth and cleaned my hands and face. She always smelled liked her cooked meal with a hint of lavender in her hair, and her hugs spoke of love.
The average American watches four hours of television each day.
Dad would follow shortly, a strong man who had lived a tough life, but his hugs were also gentle, and he would ruffle my hair and always say “don’t let the bed bugs bite, and on his way out of my room he would thank me for helping him with the chores that day.
And then I would close my eyes, and listen to a dog barking, a coyote in the distance howling that eternal cry, an occasional car door close, and of course the soft touch of the breeze as it blew through my window. I would think of the day gone by, and make plans of new adventures the next day, and thank God that I was given such a marvelous life.
Now I lay me down to sleep.
And in the morning the milkman cometh.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)