Jay Lenkersdorfer

Over our lifetimes our lives are enriched by the variety of visitors who come and go from our households. On occasion there are visitors who overstay their welcome, but by and large when a guest does leave it is usually with regrets that the time in your home was too short.

A little over a month ago we received word that our daughter, Michelle, and her family were accepting a job transfer from Roswell, New Mexico, to Lewiston, Idaho. This change in job assignments will cut the distance they live from us in half, making our visits to them or their visits to us much shorter in mileage as well as time.

As a part of this transfer the company needed our son-in-law to start almost immediately, but having his family follow would only happen when they found a home they can rent or buy that would be suitable for the seven people in their family. That left several options for them with the first being that they stay in New Mexico. This would put them more than fifteen hundred miles apart and would require them to keep their house as spick and span as possible as potential buyers would regularly tour their house. Having seen the impact that five children can have on a home on a daily basis, they decided to take option two – which was to pack up their clothes and move to Burley.

It was a rude awakening to go from being empty nesters to a household of eight, ten or even thirteen when everybody comes home for the weekend. Having a full house with its ensuing chaos has caused me to reflect on my childhood home with a dozen of us living each day. I think my mother must have been a superhero to have fed, clothed, cleaned and managed ten children and a husband who provided for our family but virtually never worked inside the home cooking, cleaning, shopping or anything else related to our upkeep.

Roles for men and women in the 1960s were very well defined. Men made the money and provided leadership for the family and they stayed out of the kitchen, while the women did everything else. It hardly feels just or equitable but that is the way I remember it. My mother had supper ready for us at 6:15 every weekday and we would sit down as a family and eat our meal together. Afterward, our father would go back to work while our mother cleaned up and got everybody to bed.

I cannot imagine the amount of laundry ten children generated daily, but we always had clean clothes to wear. Grocery shopping was a once a week task that took a lot of planning to put together. Our father would give our mom a pre-filled-out check for $100 and it was up to her to keep track of what she put in her cart so when she got to the checkout line she didn’t spend more money than she had in her hand. It seems to me to be the most inequitable assignment she had to fulfill but she did so without complaint.

Our simple home here in Burley with our extra house guests has taken me back to how I remember things happening. Our daughter has had our dinner prepared every night, just waiting for us to get home from work. She has been doing laundry, cleaning house and entertaining her children in a manner that makes me so proud to see. Like my mother, she does so without complaint, knowing that this is the role she signed up for.

When she was our only child at the age of four I thought I would teach her about life. I shared that she could be anything she wanted to be, an astronaut, a lawyer, a business owner, a teacher, or anything else. Upon me completing my list she added the job that she wanted to fulfil -that of being a mommy. It was one of the best lessons I could have been taught because among all the other possibilities that she could fulfil, being a mommy trumps them all.

Seeing Michelle function in the role she values most of all has made me one proud dad. Having her and her children live with us has also been a blessing. It won’t be long before they close on the home they are purchasing in Lewiston and off they’ll go to continue their journey as a family. Meanwhile, we will become empty nesters once again, and I’m not sure we are ready for the peace and quiet that will come back to our home.

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