“Trees” and “Knees” – 1930’s and 1960’s

Are you familiar with the poem Trees, by Joyce Kilmer?  “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…”?  It’s a classic poem teachers have long assigned to their students for memorization.

In case you didn’t know that the poem had been set to music, here is an unforgettable version, whose haunting melody will do just that.  Haunt you.  You’ll never be able to hum it in key ever again.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that I recently discovered an alternate version of that revered poem in the May, 1968 issue of Women’s Household magazine.  This poem seems fitting as we head into the summer season, when knees (and just about everything else) are on full display.

I think that I shall never see

A thing as ugly as a knee,

Above whose gnarled and knotted crest

The mini-hemline comes to rest.

Or one that’s even worse than that

When padded with repulsive fat.

A knee that may in summer wear

Nothing at all, but be quite bare.

Behind whose flex there oft remains

A network of blue and broken veins.

Some knees continue to perplex–

How can they form the letter “X”?

While in another set one sees

A pair of true parentheses.

Small nuts write verses such as these,

But greater nuts display their knees!

-Anonymous

Rest Where You Are, 1925

With the exception of one aspect, I have truly loved my 40+ years of being a housewife. What is my one exception? The following old saying states it best: “A man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s (housewife’s) work is never done.” Since my home is my workplace, my many duties are always in plain sight staring at me, begging to be done! Although I knew that I needed a change of perspective rather than a change of job, I was never able to grasp a solution to my problem until now. A teenage girl from Nebraska, born more than a century ago provided me with the answer.

I am a high school girl and know the meaning of hard work. My mother is an invalid and I have five brothers and sisters and so have housework and school work both to do.

I want to tell you of some magic words I found. Maybe you will not think they are magic if you read them casually. I don’t know who wrote the verses but I do wish every harassed house mother and others who are overworked, might try their potency. Read them slowly with the idea of getting their full meaning. There is something almost mysterious about the way they fit each hard day.

“When spurred by tasks unceasing or undone,
You would seek rest afar

And cannot, though repose by rightly won,
Rest where you are.

“Neglect the needless, sanctify the rest,
Move without stress or jar,

With quiet of a spirit self-possessed,
Rest where you are.

“Not in event, restriction or release,
Not in scenes near or far

But in ourselves are restlessness or peace,
Rest where you are!

“Tasks, unceasing or undone,” which spur you unmercifully on–isn’t that sometimes true of housework? If you cannot be spared for a vacation, why “rest where you are!” I know it can be done.

“Neglect the needless” and half of your load is lifted. “Sanctify the rest.” After all is there any office on God’s green earth so well worth filling as that of caring for your home?

“Move without stress or jar,” in other words, take your time and do not worry. Now say the rest slowly. It is magic!

I may be little but I have found the magic within which makes me bigger than the biggest day’s work that ever comes my way.

Making a Household Inventory, 1884

…And the first thing…you want to make a list of all the housekeeping articles in the house, and the condition they are in. Women usually keep the run of such things in their minds; but it is more businesslike, and makes matters clearer to know what you have in writing.” -1884

It’s embarrassing. It dawned on me this spring that I’d never done a thorough cleaning of our linen cupboards. Our house has more cupboards, closets, and built-in drawers than we will ever use. So when we moved here, taking the house over from relatives, I just put my linens in the front of the cupboards, never using the ones left behind in the back of the deep shelves.

Anyway, I dug everything out of the cupboards and piled them on a couple of beds so I could look through them. …I was kind of appalled. This didn’t even include any of the master bedroom bedding and the few more blankets I found later. This also doesn’t count the bedding already on the beds. Needless to say, I lost interest in the project after I saw the size of the piles and called it a day. It took me several afternoons of sorting by size, then sorting by quality, then sorting by need and want before I finally finished the job.

So why was this inventory useful? First, it allowed me to analyze and clear out the items I don’t use or need. (My donation pile was massive!) I can clearly see what I have in the cupboards and things will no longer get shoved to the back and forgotten. Second, I now have a clear idea of what I own. And when I know what I need, I’ll be more aware and able to take advantage of a sale, making me more efficient, or, as the author wrote, “more businesslike.”  

Incidentally, I thought that I needed a new mattress pad and sheets for the double bed in the guest room, but happily, I found both. Sorting through everything confirmed that I need absolutely nothing in the way of bedding, especially when it comes to pillowcases. All this time I’ve been running a haven for orphan pillowcases and I didn’t even know it.

Her Own Prince Charming; 1920’s

More than 90 years ago, Alice Robinson from Ohio, won first prize in a contest where she was asked to describe her “Prince Charming.” 

“If you had asked me not too long ago, I would have said that he had to be tall and dark with wonderful brown eyes. But he has come and our little home is being built. Just after the New Year, the most wonderful honeymoon that ever happened (to us) will be in progress.

My real Prince is as little like my dreams as anything could be. His light hair and blue eyes (which are always shining with kindness and merriment) are more wonderful to me than I ever dreamed anything could be. I dreamed of a rich man who could furnish me with a magnificent home. My merry farmer lad is giving me a tiny bungalow with everything modern and convenient, if you please, which no one would call magnificent, but everyone would say was adorable; they couldn’t help it. And in it with Christ’s help and blessing, we shall be happy, forever and ever because I know I am getting the world’s truest and best. And ‘he’ says he is satisfied.”

The following is a simple plan for a garden wedding. What a lovely and unstressed way to marry Prince Charming!

My cousin is going to be married early this summer and we are planning for the happy event together. Neither of us have any sisters so we are real chums even though she is a little older. They have a large shady lawn with pretty flower beds and bushes on it and she has chosen this pretty place instead of the church or house for the place of the wedding. My mother has given us permission to take over our piano and I am to play for them. My brother has a lovely voice and he is going to sing several pretty songs that cousin has already chosen. We are going to decorate the lawn with rugs and benches and the prettiest pillows we can borrow from our friends. Brother will make an altar near the piano. We shall borrow the large candles and candlesticks from the church so that in the evening the lawn will be lit up and that is when it will show it’s splendor. The altar and piano we shall decorate with wild flowers. The ceremony will be before dinner and the reception held under the shady oak trees out on the lawn. We shall make everyone present feel that my cousin’s outdoor wedding was a happy and successful affair.