Always new and exciting

maines_child_labor_mess

I wrote this some years back. It is a play of sad and funny – just like real life is. It is entirely made up. I like it very much now. See if you like it too:
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At the age of one and a half years, standing 2 feet and 4 inches tall, I was put to work. Not field work, no, but lighter, housework. It was lighter work indeed but when my thoughts take me back to those innocent childhood days it does seem that the housework was rather hard for an infant.

Wearing my pajamas – looking more like a loose woman’s dress that used to be white – I had to wash a single roasting pan. Since we were a big family the pan had a matching size. It was 3 feet and 2 inches, not counting the handle. My duties were to climb on a specially made wooden platform positioned in front of an old sink. The sink had gargantuan dimensions – it suffices to say it was used as a bathtub in warm summer days. The pan was then placed in the sink approximately at the level of my chest. Water was run through a garden hose attached with a rusty coat hanger wire to the side of the sink. The water was icy cold and the pan had a thick layer of lard on it. There was no soap.

My tears fell in the lard while I scrubbed the lardy pan with my tiny hands that still had baby dimples. At times I’d use some sand that I had collected outside of the house earlier in the day and hid in the folds of my pajamas as well as in my hair. I’d cry and scrub and the water made my hands hurt. I’d put them under my armpits but quickly the fabric in that area was soaked with water and lard and provided no protection from the cold water.

At the end of this humbling activity I climbed down the platform. My pajamas were soggy and lardy in the area were I was leaning on the sink. I had no means to dry myself and I resorted to the only available option. I hugged the housedog for a few minutes. Some of the water as well as some of the lard soaked in his fur, which the dog later gratefully licked off. I on the other hand was left with somewhat dry pajamas, but with a lot of dog hair on my chest and the cheek that was touching the animal. I also recall the unmistakable smell of wet dog in my nostrils me while I drifted away in my sleep.

I made no effort to remove the dog hair off my face. There was a hole on the wall by my bed and the cold winter wind blew through it night and day. I had tried to plug the hole with a fish tail that I found one day but that seemed to add more fish smell than protection from the wind. The dog hair stuck to one of my cheeks seemed to protect me from the wind as long as I spend the night sleeping on the cheek that had no dog hair on it.

About that time I adopted a rat. It was probably the combination of the smell of lard and fish that attracted the rat to the house. I woke up one day and here he was – laying on his back, cheek to cheek with me, tiny paws in the air. He was snoring lightly. It was very amusing for me, still a little kid, to see his tiny nose move while he slept.

He was my pet and I took good care of him. We played together – I’d hide some crumbs around the house and he’d look and find them. I’d tickle his tummy and on days when he had found plenty to eat he farted gently from satisfaction. He also licked some of the lard off my pajamas.

Those were days full of memorable moments. As any child of that age I was not really thinking of how horrible the world around me was. I took it for what it is and always found new and exciting things in it.

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