The Day To Day Realities
Over the years, although life on Heron Island may seem idyllic to anyone with a romantic bent, George and Stella worked very hard. Stella had most of the responsibilities, really. In all the time that they were on the island, it must be remembered that she gave birth twelve times. She made most of the clothing and washed it all by hand, and she was very fussy about how things were done. The wash had to sparkle. She scrubbed it on a washboard with lye soap. There were always diapers to make and keep clean, with no indoor plumbing and certainly none of today's disposables. The flannelette was ordered from the catalogue, cut and hemmed into the proper size.
The little dresses for all the girls were handmade, unless you consider using a treadle machine as being totally mechanized. As well, she made the boy's shirts and some of the pants. The socks were hand knit. She would make up a whole crop of mittens in one day so that their hands would be warm when they went out to play. There were scarves and little hats to make.
She had jobs assigned to the children around the house, but the heavy work was hers alone. Just turning out a couple of dozens loaves of bread a week on a woodstove, which she had to keep going, makes you wonder how she could do so much. "Putting up" all of the preserves, which were quickly gobbled up by the large family must have kept her busy. She and the children would spend a lot of time gathering the berries to fill the bottles for the winter months.
The water had to be heated for the baths, for the dishes and everything else that required hot water. And the water did not flow from a tap, but had to be hauled from the well. Just planning, cooking and serving three nourishing meals and some snacks every day would be enough for most people. Most of the meat and fish had to be salted or smoked so that it would last through the winter. Everything had to be planned. There was not a day that didn't have a special job so that things would never get behind.
And, as though that was not enough, she was supposed to educate the children, mend their hurts and nurse them when they were sick. When George was away, she was in charge of seeing that the lighthouse was taken care of.
At one time, I am told, the entire group came down with " Whooping
Cough". Stella managed to get the doctor to come over to see the children.
I was just an infant, not yet walking. She had not had much sleep in the
past few nights. If you ever have children with whooping cough, you will
know that when they start to cough, they often cough so hard that they
turn blue and finally end the episode by spitting up whatever they've
eaten in the last while.
I never heard of her going down to the beach just to sit in the sun and read a book. She must have been grateful just to fall, exhausted, into bed every night.
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