Gary and I were talking about lawn mowers last night. Remember the old reel mowers? Ours was always propped against the side of the house, ready to go. One of us kids mowed each week, or more often. You couldn’t let the grass grow too long if you ever expected to cut it! My brothers knew that, so at the peak of summer they often mowed a little each night. Yes, Dad mowed sometimes, and I even took a turn or two, but mostly the job fell to the boys. Why else would you have four boys? J
Reel mowers have a peculiar sound, and it is deeply imbedded in my summer memories. I was thinking about that this morning as I listened to the birds. If there is anything that stands out in my memory of childhood it is how much quieter the world seemed to be then. The tools we used for daily life were often powered by us, not machines. We used a reel mower, a hand edger, a hoe for weeding- quiet tools that didn’t wake the neighbors.
Even women didn’t make a lot of noise. My mother’s wringer washer quietly sloshed the clothes around, then she hung them on the line where they flapped in the breeze. She made cakes with a hand-turned mixer, which by the way, could be safely turned over to a very young girl. She mashed potatoes with a traditional metal tool. We even made ice cream with a hand-cranked mixer.
Of course the old ways also required much more time and effort. My mother often washed, ironed, and cleaned on separate days simply because each of those tasks literally required a whole day. But the pace of work was also slower. Mom didn’t expect to finish anything quickly.
We have turned much of our life over to gas and electric machines because they are faster and easier. I applaud our ingenuity in most cases. I’m all for saving time, especially mine. However, I think we have to admit that we have given up something in the process. There are some things, like cake and ice cream, which are not improved by making them more quickly. There are some things, like washing dishes, that I still prefer to do slowly and quietly by hand. There are some machines that work for us, but also use far too much energy and annoy the heck out of the neighbors (leaf blowers!).
My parents probably worked harder to get through each day, but at a quieter, slower pace. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us to do the same once in a while.