At my house, we grew up eating ‘Wash Day Soup’. From memory, it was cooked vegetables cut up and served in warm milk. I know right. I’m sure there was more too it but it’s a recipe I never asked for because I was not a fan. It was my grandmother’s invention because back then, doing the wash took an entire day of scrubbing and handwashing clothes. This soup was the only thing of hers that didn’t agree with me.
My grandma made it once a week on washing day for her family when my mom was a girl and in turn, my mom made it for us. She made it because it was easy, fast and cheap but mostly she made it because of the memories. I remember the first time my mom made it for us:
“Mom’s whats for dinner?”
“Wash Day Soup.”
I was sure it was made from the water she just used to wash our dirty clothes.
We all ate it begrudgingly but we loved listening to my mom’s stories of when she grew up on the farm. The most famous one being the time my grandpa made her drive the tractor when she was 5-years-old. She had to stand on the pedal to make it go but when she started going out of control she didn’t know what to do. Her older brother (who was only 9 at the time), had to quickly run alongside the tractor and pull her off. Once she was off the pedal, the tractor stopped in its tracks. Such a different world to the world I was growing up in. In my mind, I imagined her growing up on Little House on the Prairie…a show my own children have never watched.
Like most families, especially Mormon families, we all gathered together at my grandma and grandpa’s house on Sunday nights.
After church, we’d change out of our church clothes, have dinner then the six of us would pile into the car. My mom would drive all the way up 3900 South, she never took the freeway. When we got to Foothill Drive there was a massive hill we needed to conquer. It was best to get a running start at it. My mom would always try to make the green lights but even if we made the lights I would close my eyes, hold my breath and say a silent prayer every single time we drove up that hill. I knew one day our old brown wood-paneled station wagon would fall backward on top of itself with us in it.
If we were the first to arrive we would score a parking spot in the driveway. Grandma always holding the front door open and greeting us with a big smile and open arms. I embraced her hugs as everything was always better in her arms. She made me feel like I was the only thing that mattered in the whole world. I had lots to tell her and she always listened happily. Grandpa would quack and wink at me. He was always dressed in his ‘coveralls’ ready to do another job around the house. He hardly ever sat still. Grandma would take us into the kitchen to make us our favorite snack…white buttered bread with a dusting of sugar on top. By the time we finished our snack the other cousins had arrived and were there waiting for Grandma to make theirs. We would run downstairs to play because we didn’t want to hear grandpa’s grumpy comments about how loud we were. “Oh Don, they are just kids. Let them play” grandma would say.
My grandpa always lived his truth. He went to bed early and woke with the birds. I’m an early riser, just like he was. He was hardworking and incredibly smart with his money. Some people might say frugal but I say smart. He was never a businessman but had a head for business. He never really spoke about his feelings but showed love in other ways. When his heart was touched he was the first to cry and not a silent cry. The first time I saw this I didn’t know what was happening. The sobbing would start and finish within a minute. We all just gave him his space because in a few minutes he would blow his nose (sounding like a trumpet) and start grumbling about something else to change the subject.
He loved my grandma so much he built her a three bedroom double story house x2. He built a duplex but it felt more like a mansion. They occupied one side while tenants rented the other. I remember they were an older couple who never had any grandkids come to visit. My grandpa was not a big chatter but what he had to say was always important like, “Kaylynn when it comes time to buy a house, buy a duplex because the rent from the other side pays your home loan”, I think I was 10-years-old.
My Grandma’s house was amazing. The biggest yard to run around in, a laundry shoot, a sewing nook, two living areas, built in plant boxes above the stairs, a big basement to make up games in, a downstairs chest freezer (all good things came from the freezer) and the way she decorated it for Christmas was magic. We spent all holidays there, together. My grandpa built the house for all of us.
They only had the two kids at home by the time my grandpa built the house. The three older kids were married and started families of their own. There was grandma and grandpa’s room, Aunt Glenda’s room and Uncle Larry’s room. By the time I came along, my aunt and uncle had moved out with families of there own, however, their rooms always remained the same. When no one was looking, I always snuck into Aunt Glenda’s room to see the big pink teddy bear and into Uncle Larry’s room to see the covered wagon lamp.
My grandma had a big rose garden with every colored rose. In the middle of the garden was a statue of a little black bear. Once, I walked into the kitchen to see my cousin Heidi crying and the mom’s tending to her cuts and scratches all over her legs and arms. When I asked what happened, Heidi said: “I wanted to pat the bear”.
My grandpa made my grandma a sewing nook. You opened two doors to reveal a sewing oasis. It was beautiful and orange. It had a built-in sewing machine, a table that extended out into the room and shelves of boxes to keep her sewing stuff in. My grandma covered the boxes with a black and orange fabric. Everything matched. The boxes were full of patterns, needles, fabrics and threads of every color. On the shelf, she also had big jars full of buttons. Every type of button. Gold ones, diamond ones, shiny ones and colored ones. Sometimes she would let me pick a favorite, a treasure to take home. I would watch her sew. Fixing tears, patching holes and picking the hem out of my pants so I could get more wear out of them. She said to me. “Kaylynn, take sewing classes whenever you can. It will save you lots of money when you have your own family one day.”
In the kitchen, there were magical doors. Behind them were where the makings for hot chocolate lived. I liked to help her make the hot chocolates because I knew where the marshmallows were and she would let me get them out for her.
You opened the two double doors with built-in caddy’s full of jars of jams, boxes of cookies, and bags of chips. There were shelves full of containers of flours, sugars and bags of goodies. The back wall were two more doors. You opened them to reveal an even deeper space with more shelves full of canned goods. The marshmallows were on the right. It was nothing like I had ever seen before and won’t see again. I still remember the sweet smell of her pantry and the sound the doors made when opened.
Homemade Ice Cream Saturdays
When the weather turned warm, my grandpa would turn the covered carport into a patio. He would roll out the fake grass and pull out the outdoor furniture from the shed. There were two chairs, a double sofa that would sway back and forth and my favorite a lounge chair, where you could extend your legs out and almost fall asleep. I would lay there listening to the adults talk as the canyon breeze swept through the conversation.
My grandma gave my grandpa an ice cream maker one year that looked like an old wooden bucket. We would each take turns cranking the leaver. It was hard work, lucky there were lots of us. It was always grandpa’s job to check to and see how close it was to being ready to eat. We wore that machine out and they got a new one that plugged in. I remember it was red, white and blue with stars and stripes, just like the flag. It felt different not having to crank the handle. We just had to be careful not to trip over the cord and listen to it making ice cream then. It was different but the ice cream still tasted delicious. We wore that one out too. I think they went through at least four of them.
All the best memories I have with my cousins were made at my Grandparent’s house. While all the adults chatted upstairs, we made up games downstairs or played outside on the grass. I learned so much about life from my cousins and feel so blessed to have them still in my life.
The hours spent with my cousins flew by like minutes and time to go home always came too quickly.
We played carpet tag, board games and made up dances outside on the front lawn. One of our favorite things to play on was grandma’s exercise machine. I don’t even know if it was an exercise machine, that’s just what we called it. It was like a large folding lounge chair thing, that you would lay down on and it would bend at the waist. It would move in and out. When it was in, it would fold your legs to your torso and when you pushed away or out it would stretch you backward working your stomach muscles (I think?). We, of course, used it in the way it was not intended for. Two people would hold it open while two others laid down on it. Once laying down the kids on the outside would move it up and down really fast trying to knock you out of it. We all had our fingers pinched in it so many times.
I remember coming upstairs hot and sweaty from running around. I would sit on one of my grandma’s sweet little stools near the couch and watch my mother laugh and interact with her siblings. They were fun and happy times for all.
My grandmother was a journal writer, just like me. She was a special lady who always brought her family together with love, generosity and her food. She was the best cook; fried chicken, lasagne, and we would fight over her homemade rolls. She had so much compassion for children, especially the ones that belonged to her. I don’t know where she found the energy. She had five kids (having my Aunt Glenda in her 40s) of her own. Then those kids had kids. I may be out on my numbers but my grandparents had 21 grandkids, 46 great grandkids.
Once when I slept over at my grandma’s house, we stayed up watching Thoroughly Modern Milly while waiting for our hair to dry after our showers. We cuddled in our nightgowns and laughed together. She had the best laugh and was always laughing.
I’m sad that my two kids never knew her but I tell them all the time that she took care of them up in Heaven while they were waiting for me to become a mama.
Wash Day Soup
Now that I am a busy mother, I understand the need to find easy healthy meals and it got me thinking about what my ‘Wash Day Soup’ is. I think my wash day soup is spaghetti. I wonder if my children will be sick of spaghetti by the time they have their own kids to feed.
Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa for always loving us and being our heroes. I feel so blessed to have had two such shining examples in my life growing up.
Thanks for going down memory lane with me. These are just some of my memories but of course, a blog post can’t fit them all in.
So what is your ‘Wash Day Soup’?