The Singing House

The Singing House

posted in: Domesticity, Felicity | 0

I grew up in a singing house.

My mother’s presence exuded hospitality, domestic busyness, good cheer and fun.
Quiet, sweet and noble as a young mother:

In church, I would see other little children look her way. She would wink at them and they would blush and smile back.

It made me feel pangs of both jealousy and pride.

Jealousy that my mother was showering some of her wonderful person on someone other than myself or siblings, and pride that those other kids liked her as much as I did.
Her singing.  Singing folk songs and pop music, songs she made up or Gaelic music she was learning.

Singing while she cooked, while she sewed, cleaned or rocked babies.  Singing while she drove, tapping her wedding ring on the steering wheel in time to the beat.

Music was  and still is,  a huge part of her existence.
Babies. As the oldest daughter,  I have many memories of her caring for her babies.  Always gentle, always thinking of their needs/feelings.  Teaching me from a young age to carefully handle their little bodies; to be sure their little arms were just so, their bodies kept warm but not too warm.

Reminding me that babies on the floor are going to be colder than an adult standing up, that their little feet need to be free from heavy shoes- that shoes in general aren’t good for their feet and legs.
To not leave babies lying in one position for too long or sitting in  a seat.  Always to think of their comfort and how I would feel if I were them.    Too many considerations to list here!

What I admire most is that she thought for herself when it came to child-rearing.

Not one to listen to ‘experts’ of that time, she read widely and chose for herself what felt right and good.

In a time when Wonder bread and Lucky Charms were on the tables of many households and begged for by her own children, she served us only wholesome, real food.

Hungry for a snack before dinner?  Here’s a carrot.   Hungry for breakfast?  Here’s some hot cereal.

Wanting a treat?  Here are some homemade carrot or oatmeal cookies with whole wheat flour, freshly ground from her wheat grinder.

Bored?  Get outdoors and play- or you can help inside with housework.

Cold?  Get moving and stop sitting around.
Get the windows open and let fresh air inside, hang the laundry outdoors to absorb air and sunshine, get the kids outdoors to absorb the same. 

Children and teens: I have admired her ability to recognize when a  child needs less structure and more freedoms.

Motherhood is a balance between teaching and training and knowing when to let go.   She was very good at that.

I loved the freedoms I had as a child- she was not one to micro-manage, although there were still expectations to be met.


She taught us by example to not frown or pout, but to have a positive outlook on life.

She found the good in everything and taught us to laugh off life’s down swings.

She rarely raised her voice, was patient when we made mistakes, and above all, we always knew we were loved.
My own vision of our home in my childhood is one of bright, airy, clean spaces,  warmth, wholesome food , very little television but lots of music, and tons of outdoor time.
So much of who I am comes from her early example.



In honor of my mother, here’s a wonderful story:

The Singing House

By May Morgan Potter


Fred ate his breakfast dutifully and then slipped down from his chair.

‘Now can I go over to Jimmy’s, mother?’ he asked.

‘But Fred,’ I said, ‘you were over there yesterday and the day before. Why not have Jimmy come here today?’

‘Oh, he wouldn’t want to.’ Fred’s lip quivered in spite of his six years of manhood. ‘Please, mother.’

‘Why do you like Jimmy’s house better than ours, son?’ I pursued. It came to me suddenly that Fred and all his companions were always wanting to go to Jimmy’s house.

‘Why,’ he explained hesitantly, ‘it’s cause–it’s cause Jimmy’s house is a singing house.’
‘A singing house?’ I questioned. ‘Now what do you mean by that?’

‘Well,’ Fred was finding it hard to explain, ‘Jimmy’s mother hums when she sews; and Annie-in-the-kitchen, she sings when she cuts out cookies; and Jimmy’s daddy always whistles when he comes home.’ Fred stopped a moment and added, ‘Their curtains are rolled clear up and there are flowers in the windows. All the boys like Jimmy’s house, mother.’ 

‘You may go, son,’ I said quickly. I wanted him out of the way so I could think. I looked around my house. Everyone told me how lovely it was. There were oriental rugs. We were paying for them on installments. . . . We were paying for the overstuffed furniture and the car that way, also. Perhaps that was why Fred’s daddy didn’t whistle when he came in the house. . . .

I . . . went over to Jimmy’s house, even if it was ten o’clock and Saturday morning. It came to me that Mrs. Burton would not mind being interrupted in the middle of the morning. She never seemed to be in a hurry. She met me at the door with a towel around her head.

‘Oh, come in. I have just finished cleaning the living room. No indeed, you are not interrupting. I’ll just take off this headdress and be right in.

‘ While I waited, I looked around. The rugs were almost threadbare; the curtains . . . tied back; the furniture, old and scarred. . . . A table with a bright cover held a number of late magazines. In the window were hanging baskets of ivy . . . , while a bird warbled from his cage hanging in the sun. Homey, that was the effect. The kitchen door was open and I saw Jerry, the baby, sitting on the clean linoleum, watching Annie as she pinched together the edges of an apple pie. She was singing…

Mrs. Burton came in smiling. ‘Well,’ she asked, ‘what is it?  For I know you came for something; you are such a busy woman.’

‘Yes,’ I said abruptly, ‘I came to see what a singing house is like.’

Mrs. Burton looked puzzled. ‘Why, what do you mean?’

‘Fred says he loves to come here because you have a singing house. I begin to see what he means.’

‘What a wonderful compliment!’ Mrs. Burton’s face flushed. ‘But of course my house doesn’t compare with yours. Everyone says you have the loveliest house in town.’

‘But it isn’t a singing house,’ I objected. . . . ‘Tell me how you came to have one.’

‘Well,’ smiled Mrs. Burton, ‘if you really want to know. You see, John doesn’t make much. I don’t think he ever will. He isn’t the type. We have to cut somewhere, and we decided on non-essentials. . . . There are books, magazines, and music. . . . These are things the children can keep inside. They can’t be touched by fire or financial problems so we decided they were essentials. Of course good wholesome food is another essential. . . . The children’s clothes are very simple. . . . But when all these things are paid for, there doesn’t seem to be much left for rugs and furniture. . . . We don’t go into debt if we can avoid it. . . . However we are happy’, she concluded.

‘I see,’ I said thoughtfully. I looked over at Jerry and Fred in the corner. They had manufactured a train out of match boxes and were loading it with wheat. They were scattering it a good deal, but wheat is clean and wholesome. I went home. My oriental rugs looked faded. I snapped my curtains to the top of the windows, but the light was subdued as it came through the silken draperies. . . . My house was not a singing house.  I determined to make it sing.

Authentic Life Jess

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