Poetry Friday May 31, 2019

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. A whole lot of Celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye is going on there. Check out all the participants' sites for poetry inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye and some that isn't. After reading Mary Lee's post and poem, I feel a need to invest in a copy of The Creativity Project. I'm pretty sure that by the time I read all that poetry, I might even be inspired to write my own bit. 

I am continuing to work on poems about a pivotal time in 1958, when my family joined other relatives on an adventure into the Pine Valley region in Northern British Columbia. I'm committed to sharing a bit every week to keep me going. They might not be in any kind of order. I just hope to get some kind of drafts out there. I appreciate feedback on the construction of the poetry and ideas and questions about what information might be missing.

Today I'm posting my last poem about laundry. The more I research, the more I realize that housework was pure drudgery. Next week I'm planning on something about how the men were faring. 

I'm babysitting two toddlers tomorrow so I probably won't get around to reading all of your posts until Saturday. 

Diaper Duty

Diapers were a perilous trial.

Solid bits were scraped into a pot,
dumped into the outhouse
when someone went out that way.
The soiled flannel squares
were chucked into a bucket
For cleaning every few days.

Got pretty ripe if you left them too long.

I helped out while my sister, Rae, 
almost three and a half,
looked after the younger ones.

Mommy rinsed them
in the river,
or in melted ice or snow
if it was froze over.

A large kettle of clean water
was set on the wood stove.
Soap was added and
those diapers were set to boiling.
Mommy scrubbed stains out
with a washboard.
Wrung out
the clean soapy diapers
by hand,

My job was to stir them
As they were twice rinsed in fresh water,
before being wrung out,
and pinned on a line outside.

In winter they froze
soon as they hit the line,
were freeze dried by the end of the day.

Come rain,
they were strung on ropes
across the already cramped cabin.

I helped Mommy
Fold the dry nappies,
Kite style, ready for use.

Family legend tells of the time
the Pine River tried take our Granny Alaric.

Middle of that September,
Mommy headed to Prince George
to birth our baby brother, Tim.
Granny Alaric, her mom,
came to stay for spell
and help out.

James, my other brother,
just over one year,
was still in diapers.

Granny was down at the river
readying to rinse a pail of nappies.
As usual,
a passel of us children
traipsed at her heels.

We watched as she,
needing to fill her bucket,

              stretched across the
                                          iced over shallow water

The current,
stronger than she anticipated,
snatched up that bucket,
and her holding on to it.

Our 70 year old Granny
couldn’t swim.
She yelled.
we kids
ran along the river bank
watched her
go under,
come up again.

The Pine River swept her
under the bridge.
On the other side
she grabbed hold
of one of the trusses.

Men rushed into the river
to rescue her.
But she, 
sputtering and cussing,
had already rescued herself.
And was still holding on to the pail.

Here are links to previous Pine Valley poems. 

Ready and Willing 



  1. Oh my goodness, I love the stories, Cheriee. Both my grandmothers used washboards until (I think) after WWII. I wrote this once when pondering their past grueling work:

    No Whining

    When my washer unbalances,
    when the ice maker freezes up,
    when the vacuum burns out,
    and the toilet clogs,
    I remember past stories
    and shut myself up.

    1. I love your poem Linda. I at least remember using a wringer washing machine, but we are very lucky to live the lives we do now.

  2. Holy cow. Diapers done by hand. Those women should be sainted!

    A clarification about THE CREATIVITY PROJECT -- it's not just poetry! There are prompts and responses to prompts that are short stories, comics, etc. It's a wild romp of creativity!!

    1. Thanks Mary Lee. I have ordered my copy! These women were and still are pretty special.

  3. Glad Granny was alright (and that she still had the pail)!

    1. It was pretty darn exciting at the time. She was given hell for not just letting it go in the first place.

  4. I can’t fathom cleaning diapers in that setting. I bow down to these women.

    1. So do I. They were the kind of women who just got what had to be done, done.

  5. Oh MY, Cheriee! Thanks for sharing this. Mind-boggling.

    1. It's pretty hard to imagine doing this today. I used cloth diapers like these but had an automatic washing machine. Disposable diapers were only for travelling.

  6. Oh my word! So glad that had a happy ending. This is another reminder of how blessed we are and how easy our day to day chores are compared to back then and compared to even now in other parts of the world.

    1. We are very privileged indeed in so many ways!

  7. A great, grim and disgusting story. I love it! Flannel, eh? Not cotton. Huh. I cannot imagine the smell and the hours and hours to get those nappies clean. Y U C K. It's amazing that your family kept going. Great poem this week. I'm looking forward to the next.

    1. I think they were cotton flannel - that's what I used on my sons.

  8. What a nightmare! Cleaning the nappies was bad enough, but then the story about Granny? Egads, it took my breath away, Cheriee.

  9. Wow, what an incredible tale, hope this one can find a home eventually, thanks Cheriee!