Thursday, June 3, 2010

Whenever I Think About Pioneers...

A while ago I went to Costco to go grocery shopping. Adelyn was asleep, so I took her in the store in her baby car seat, which I put in the cart. I lured Jackson into the shopping cart seat with a hot dog and went about my shopping. Midway through the store Addy woke up so I put her in the front pack. I had a huge pile of groceries, so eventually there wasn't room for her car seat in the cart. At the end, Jackson started getting fussy so I made the grave mistake of getting him out of the cart while we were paying for our groceries at the cash register. Of course my chances of getting him back in the cart after that were nil.

I pondered how best to get myself and company out to the car in the rain: a baby strapped to my chest, a double-wide shopping cart- piled over the top with groceries and diapers, a baby car seat carrier that didn't readily fit anywhere and an energetic two-year-old running all over the place trying to avoid being caught, refusing to go back in the cart. I finally piled the car seat on top of the cart, took a deep breath, picked up my 35-pound two-year-old with one arm, and pulling the shopping cart with the other trudged out to the car in the rain.

As I walked out, an amusing spectacle to other Costco customers, I thought, "I feel just like a pioneer! Pulling my handcart with my belongings and children out into the rain." To my air-conditioned/heated car, to drive home to my spacious, modern centrally-heated house. With a car full of disposable diapers and fresh groceries that would boggle any pioneer's mind. So maybe it wasn't just like being a pioneer.

Maybe it's just having too much time on my hands, but I've often wondered what it would be like to be a pioneer or just to live in the 1800's in general. I had Mormon pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains in covered wagons and I am amazed at their strength and determination. I've read "Little House on the Prairie" and it amazes me how Ma can pick up and move time and time again. Or reading novels like "These is My Words" leads me to mull over how on earth you could live in Arizona with no air-conditioning. Or how you could handle 5 children while your husband left to fight in the army in an era of no disposable diapers? Or exactly how would you dry laundry in the freezing winter? Especially if you lived in a small one-room cabin to begin with....

Usually I end up with the conclusion that I am a total wimp. Not just a wimp, but a lazy wimp. I complain about doing my laundry when I have not one, but two front-loading washers and dryers (yes, the woman who built this house before we lived here and insisted on that feature was truly brilliant). Because I have to fold it and that's hard and boring. So instead I let my laundry pile up in the upstairs hallway while I sit on my computer and write blogs about it and ponder important things like whether this blog post has too many italics.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not an ungrateful wretch. On the contrary, I'm deeply grateful. After all, I am only one generation removed from when cloth diapers were your only option. (Can you imagine how considerably less comfortable of an arrangement co-sleeping would be in the era of cloth diapers?) Every single time I change a diaper I thank my lucky stars for the invention of disposables. I've also thought about inventing disposable socks that don't need to be sorted and folded. :)

It definitely would have been a hard life to be a pioneer, but there would have been things that were good about it too, like working together as a family and not being so split up all the time or not having all of the pressures of modern life. And maybe there are parts of my cushy modern life that a pioneer wouldn't really like that much. They probably wouldn't like that you can't just send your kids out to roam on your 10 acres of land. Or getting in trouble with your HOA for having chickens in your backyard (that was for you, Emily). Or maybe they couldn't stand having a backyard the size of a postage stamp. We have a whole slew of different expectations. They might hate the fact that while we have plentiful delicious food to eat, if you want to be considered attractive you should renounce it and try to look like you're starving. (Or maybe that has always been part of being female.) They might even share my dislike of sorting through the piles of papers that get sent home from school in my kids' backpacks. Maybe they wouldn't like dragging a two-year-old through Costco. :)

But regardless of what a pioneer would or wouldn't have thought of my life, I'm pretty sure that if one of my pioneer ancestors was placed in my shoes, they wouldn't think , "Let's be sure to make sure I feel bad every day because I'm a wimp and don't live in a log cabin and trudge through the Oregon rain and mud to get my water every day." So I guess all anyone can do in their given situation is to enjoy what you can for what it is and be grateful.

6 comments:

Greek Goddess said...

I totally agree about the being grateful part. I do admire and appreciate the pioneers, too, and think of them often, but honestly, I think we have our own big set of struggles, even though they are completely different. My grandparents in Austria had to bring in their water every day. My grandfather brought in some in the morning, but it was never enough to last the whole day, so my grandmother had to bring in more. I think, wow, that's tough. Yet, my grandfather said, he was glad to live in an era when people at least on the surface knew what was morally right and wrong (even if they didn't all follow their conscience). We deal with a lot of emotional and psychological pressures, so despite our comforts, I think we have a lot of stuff to deal with, too.

Kate said...

It's like you read my mind this morning. I was just looking at what used to be my couch and wondering if every article of clothing that we weren't wearing was piled on that couch waiting for me to fold it. As I was grumbling to myself about my intense dislike of laundry I had the thought of how grateful I was to have a washer and dryer. And the fact that I had so much laundry meant that my children had clothes on their backs.

Emily Laing said...

Thanks hun, my pioneering spirit has to be expressed in other ways now. You want some kale? It's going like gangbusters in my garden! It would be heaven to have 2 washers and dryers. This has been my solution to the laundry dilemma, do it all on one day, and then have a sorting party for 5 minutes. We all throw everyones clothes into their own pile and they take their pile to their rooms. I've given up folding. They stuff them in their drawers anyway. I just fold my stuff and the towels. It might not be ideal for you, but when you kids get older, I highly recommend it.

Ranell said...

Believe me, the irony is not lost on me ... I used to have the two washers/dryers all to myself and my littl(er) family. Now my family is bigger, and I SHARE one wahser/dryer with another even bigger family next door. Oh, the irony ...

One thing pioneer women and us definitely have in common is we have other women in the same boat (or wagon, as the case may be) who are willing to share the load. PLEASE bring Jackson and Addy over to my house before you go to Costco! Leave them here, take my small list of items that I need, and go by yourself! I hate going to Costco because I always overspend, and I would much rather watch your kids for an hour or two while you go and get the few items I actually need. Remember, we can be 'sister wives' and co-mothers, without involving the whole 'sharing a husband' bit!

Ranell said...

Okay, I definitely suffer from OCD ... I wrote my first comment over 2 hours ago, and it's been bugging me that I wrote 'the pioneers and us have in common'. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to the 'we and the pioneers have in common'. Sorry about that! I had to correct it just in case my mother somehow happens upon this blog and reads my comment. She is the grammar queen and would be appalled at that previous sentence!

Diana said...

I think that I'm roughing it lately because I have to schlep water from the main kitchen to the back of the house, kitchenette. I do this because the sink faucet leaks and we have not found the easy solution yet. Yes we have different trials but still I'm still amazed at all they did.