Our work ethic is something that carries us through from adolescence to our adulthood. How we handle our obligations has been planted in us when we were old enough to learn that what was worth having, was worth working for.


Part 12: It’s a Chore – Did you have chores growing up? Did you have a favorite? Did you hate doing them? What is a chore for you now? How has it prepared you for handling things now? Write about it.



Why is it that everything Mom did
Looked like so much fun?
Washing dishes, stripping wallpaper,
Scrubbing floors, hosing down the house –
She made it all look delightful.

Take ironing.
I clearly recall the sound
Of Mom’s clothes sprinkler,
As she shook it like a salt shaker,
Sprinkling water on the clothes
Before pressing them.
What fun!

Oh, the excitement the day she entrusted me
With ironing Dad’s handkerchiefs.

Oh, the letdown when the novelty wore off,
And “fun” transitioned to “chore.”

Take ironing.

Copyright © Marie Elena Good – 2012



The kitchen was a ghost town
whenever suppertime came.
The calendar upon the wall
emblazoned with each name.
All the siblings had a chance
to lend a hand in kind.
To think that they would follow through,
was surely out of mind.
The first name was the set-up man,
to set the places right.
The second name was the “washer,”
(this one stayed out of sight).
The third would wipe and put away
the dishes from that night.
I made my bones by being home,
an enterprising lad, who traded on
their malcontent (I didn’t think it bad)
to offer to take someone’s turn,
of course there was a “fee,” but they
 were glad to give what they had
to lay their burden on me. I made
a fortune (for a kid), which to me was fine.
When Mom would ask, “Whose turn is it?”
I always answered, “MINE!”

Copyright © Walter J. Wojtanik – 2012

126 thoughts on “IT’S A CHORE! – PROMPT #77

  1. Hi, all! My poem was written a couple of weeks ago, but it really fits this prompt. It talks about my favorite chore from when I was a little girl – cherry picking. It was tangentially inspired by Ezra Pound’s superb poem, “A Girl” and it is dedicated to my grandmother – who was, after all, the rightful owner of the cherry trees mentioned here 🙂


    Although the cherry trees themselves
    have long been retired into the earth,
    time still mirrors their likenesses
    as they were, not yet lacquered with
    the mutable, craftable, carvable polish of a sap
    which shall be left behind
    after this imago mundi has completely slipped past our grasps.
    Young time keeps its taste rollicking ’round the mouth,
    raising each bud of the tongue from its slumber,
    each casting out a soap bubble ensnaring within it
    stolen fragments like jewels with moments at their core.

    This recently-departed present had surprised us
    under the roof of a single sky,
    the enameled bowls at our feet holding our gathered cherries in queue
    with the pride of ancient treasure chests
    with their mouths wrenched open,
    spilling a thousand looted garnets into display.

    Our female fingers worked in spindly kinship
    as we disemboweled the cherries of their pits,
    enucleating the garnets of their blunt cores
    and appropriating the fleshy incarnations of their shine.

    As the night was released from behind the sky,
    sap ascended our arms, branches were tossed around the table
    until foliage obscured the lines between us
    and a rowdy forest of cherry trees rose around our table,
    tossing conversation like deep red soap bubbles weaving between us,
    the million voices of our taste buds weaving the lines
    of the same tapestry in union.

    Today, there are only soap bubbles of us
    carving out the roots of our cherry trees;
    they coast on a streak above the ocean
    and burst, as the sap has long descended our arms
    and returned whence it came from.

    © Andra-Teodora Negroiu, 2012

  2. Meg, I can still see my Mom standing there, in the evening, ironing and starching while the musical entertainment show, Hullabaloo, sang and danced on the screen 🙂 ; Walt, you so reminded me of my older brother — very resourceful– 🙂 !

  3. “…Cleanliness is next to Godliness…”

    Cleaning calms me… it grounds
    I like to say: “Sometimes…
    don’t you just wanna
    wash the dishes…?”
    (Most people look at me
    strangely and say “NO!”)
    –Putting things in order,
    dusting them off and
    placing them in their
    proper place…
    …Ahh… a work
    of art.

    {Now, wheeling that big, ‘ol heavy garbage can out to the curb… well, That is drudgery!}

  4. Indoor/Outdoor Chores

    Hanging clothes on racks indoors
    Those were chores I hated.

    But planting
    Hanging clothes on lines outdoors
    Those were chores I liked.

  5. The Dishes

    With seven people, it seemed the job was never done.
    There is just no way to make dish washing fun.
    Because I was the oldest I did it every day.
    It seemed that I would never get them put away.
    I finally went to college, then lived on my own.
    The hatred pf the dishes never was outgrown.
    When I got married we took an unusual vow.
    Wherever we lived, there would be a dishwasher now.
    For 35 years it has been just the thing.
    For my marriage, its more important than the ring!

  6. Pingback: Many Hands…(a haibun) | Metaphors and Smiles

  7. Many Hands…(a haibun)

    We were always told by my father that this ancient Chinese proverb holds much truth and I tend to agree now and back then I would cringe for it was repeated so frequently and always when there were tasks that were monumental in accomplishing, (or so it seemed to me back then)- the raking of our huge yard, or the stacking of cords of wood, or the time the car broke down and we walked eight miles to get home rather than stopping at a neighborhood house to arrange a ride. The five of us trudged in the full moon-lit night…our breaths crystallizing on the wintry air…yes, somehow the proverb applied then too: “Many hands make light work,” and really I tend to agree and honestly it is true that the more we’re each willing put forth our most positive attitudes and energies the better the outcome and perhaps more easily achieved. And it was in these times that I gained perspective and a love and respect for nature, too.

    Lend a hand happily,

    stand with family

    sure up integrity.


    Copyright © Hannah Gosselin 2012


  8. Marie!!! Your’s made me laugh right out loud…I remember thinking the same thing and I don’t iron now either…unless I have to!

    Walt the go-to guy…I’m not surprised!!

    Great writing and prompting you two!!


    It must have been the smell;
    the spray of fresh lemony polish
    on furniture, a shining sheen,
    my reflection looking back at me
    as I rubbed circles on cherry wood
    and dreamed of days when I’d be seen.

  10. Dust, Dishes and Deliverance

    Dusting –
    each item had a story
    or perhaps a brief pause in dusting occurred
    as a new story was created and performed before moving on.

    Dishes –
    water full of submarines
    and sea creatures from the depths
    and bubbles that were blown willy nilly,
    although drying was never as much fun
    the task did not put me into fits of despair – yet.

    Deliverance –
    dusting and dishes lost their charms
    with every foothold into puberty –
    avoidance, homework, or the ever popular “I forgot” syndrome
    kept me from doing the dirty deeds –
    College was a blessing, to both my mother and I.
    She was delivered from arguments regarding my faulty memory
    and I … I was just plain delivered.

  11. OK, gang, sorry this is so long. It hit me where I live.

    For the Love of Labor

    We were born to work.
    Our only reason for existing,
    beyond Mama’s need to love,
    was to plant, tend, and harvest,
    feed, milk, brush, and shepherd,
    clean, wash, cook, and mend.

    We complained of it up one row
    and down another, hurling “slave”
    about as if we understood it.
    We didn’t factor in meals, beds,
    roofs, clothes, whatnots of existence,
    as our pay. It was a family thing.

    Coming in dusty from the fields,
    we sponged off and made lunch,
    hoping for an hour to read or play,
    when Mama would say, “Why don’t
    we string these beans while we rest?”
    I wanted to shriek, “Because we’re resting!”
    Workaholism is inherited; this I know.

    We didn’t call these labors chores.
    This was work, pure and simple, grown-up,
    muscle aching, back-breaking work.
    Chores we did on Saturdays: lawn mowing,
    bed changing, dusting, vacuuming,
    churning butter, canning or preserving,
    washing, flower arranging for Sunday.

    We bartered jobs like women at a market
    trading beans for shiny buttons. I hated
    dusting then and now, but loved to churn
    butter, the heavy cream slogging along
    like a plow horse in a churn passed along
    for generations, rotary wooden and pot-bellied.
    I liked the rhythm of paddles hitting the liquid,
    feeling the mixture thicken, and finally the bits
    of butter plopping on each arm-aching turn.

    I loved packing the butter into wooden molds,
    a bunch of violets in one, a star and moon in the other,
    turning out the fat cakes of gold like bricks of bullion.
    I liked to spread the leftover bits on bread
    with honey and reward myself for a good job.
    Now, cow- and churn-less, I love the memory.

    I’ve handled some slippery situations
    since my butter days, been forced to wait
    for plots to thicken, for the pieces
    to come together in one golden clump,
    for designs to be molded decoratively
    across the tops of my best efforts.

    I’ve worked nearly every day of my life,
    doing one thing or another, more or less
    pleasing, more or less successfully,
    and find that I cannot NOT work.
    My glass of wine has a dulcimer on my lap,
    a dishwasher or washing machine in the background.
    Sitting to read, I flank my chair with papers
    to grade, calls to make, the words
    punctuated with beeps from the oven.
    I have raised multi-tasking to a spiritual level,
    and still I cannot get everything done.

    It helps that I learned early to find the fun in the job
    or be miserable, to look at what’s at my feet,
    among the clouds, or carried on a breeze.
    I’ve learned that work gives life meaning,
    purpose, power, dignity, and joy,
    But what I’ve learned
    more than anything else is
    We are born to work.

  12. LOL! I’m happy to report I no longer remember where my iron is. 🙂

    A woman who’s dragging a cart
    Has some errands to run. Where to start?
    The cleaners and grocer —
    Too bad they’re not closer.
    How she longs to stay home and make art.

  13. Oh Marie! Ironing is the bane of my existence! With ten people to iron for, it’s definitely a huge task. And I iron well so my mom has me do a lot of it.*sigh*😉 I was gonna write about ironing, but maybe I’ll just think if something else.

  14. Chores, Good and Bad

    The wrath rising in me when ironing
    equaled the steam sizzling from
    the readied iron, so adept was I
    at ironing extra wrinkles into
    blouses and pants.

    I own an iron. Let’s see, where
    do I keep the little devil? Well,
    somewhere in my house
    is rusted, unused iron.

    Helping Mom bake creations
    of confections like chocolate
    chip cookies awed me. Mixing
    batter, upending bag of semi-sweet
    chips, and folding them into mixture,
    some rolling under my tongue.
    Heady aroma of vanilla, scooping
    spoons of dough onto cookie sheets,
    watching as cookies spread
    into large puffy circles.

    Baking still fills me with love, using
    Mom’s recipe for chocolate chip
    cookies, but I use larger scoops
    of dough for softer, succulent melters.

  15. (Haiku)

    Dishes, beds and floors,
    potatoes peeled, table set.
    dust, laundry, yard work.

    We all took a turn
    at what was needed doing
    that is called family,

    • Thinking back – I recall one thing I learned amazingly well.
      One can accomplish a tremendous amount of work between the time a parent’s car enters the driveway and the house door opens….
      [Has come in handy when unexpeded company drives up….]
      Also, Get plates on the table a, kettle of water on the hot burner. 😉 ..

      • LOL, I can still hear one of us saying: “MOM AND DAD’S HOME!!” as we rushed to finish our daily chores before they walked in the door! :D!

  16. The early bird

    The birds would watch
    (I was convinced)
    as the ancient milk float
    creaked arthritically
    the length of our street

    No milk today thank you
    or six please plus butter
    and a dozen eggs
    read the notes stuffed in the
    empties exchanged for:

    red top, homogenized
    like European democracy,
    silver top, plebian and unremarkable,
    and on weekends gold top, splendid in the sunrise
    its thick cream rising to the top.

    Saturdays, I stood guard
    staring through the letterbox
    listening to the chatter
    determined to swoop
    before that shining foil was pierced.

  17. Ironing Sheets

    I loved the symmetry of folded sheets,
    corner to corner, pressed and steamed,
    spritzed with starch, growing smaller
    and smaller, high-thread-count origami,
    stacked beneath matching pillowcases,
    His and Hers embroidered white on white.

    The hiss of steam as metal met moisture
    whispered secrets to me, alone
    in the laundry room, creases stiff
    beneath my iron, a talisman part
    bookend, part Monopoly marker
    on holiday away from the Scottie dog,
    the little car. On occasion, I too
    fled the company of siblings on bikes,
    of neighborhood children, choosing
    even instead of my books that simple
    solid chore, deferring my drowsy
    dreams beneath their smooth weight,
    no single wrinkle disturbing my sleep,
    a princess without her pea.

  18. Celebration of the Clothesline

    Of all the tasks that fell on me to perform
    When my mother’s weak heart gradually
    Claimed her ability to take care of our home
    Doctor bills and my father’s salary
    Allowed for a lady only once a week to clean.

    My favorite duty was the laundry
    In those days of wringer washers
    And outdoor lines
    Where clothes were pinned and floated joyfully
    Into a sky of blue and world of sun

    I loved the feel of fresh mown blades of grass
    Tickling my feet (I tossed away my shoes)
    And alternating sheets with heavy towels
    Or arranging a pattern of colors, I believed
    Myself to be an artist seeking the divine
    Pattern of perfection, though I was never close
    Those grade school years and then of junior, senior high…

    My mother had passed and the laundry and I
    Kept going on together.
    Later, I was a mother and a wife
    Who owned a magic dryer that tossed
    The clothes about, all
    Willy-nilly with no rhythm to be found
    But such a help on days of rain or winter cold
    When diapers needed drying right away.

    I gave thanks for those inventions
    But on those mornings when the skies dawned blue
    With smiling sun, there on my line they flew
    Diapers, sheet, towels and everything I knew
    Would celebrate their moments in the sun/

  19. “Stiff”

    Inhale the steaming
    Niagra spray starch puffing
    above the iron, fold dad’s hanky,
    iron the fold, fold and iron, crease and
    fold, steam the edges, pick another off the pile,
    crease and fold, inhale the sizzle, a dozen a week
    for hay fever needs, pick a white shirt, give it a shake,
    collar first, wrists then around the buttons, back stiff
    trial and error, on tip-toes, at eye-level, hang it
    button it, pick a peck of pillow cases, bleached
    and steamed, embroidered in white, then
    spray and starch, fold and crease,
    inhale and fold and . . .

  20. Time to Delegate

    Of all the chores I hated most
    cleaning the bathroom would be my choice
    No one to share or bargain with
    Complaining was a waste of voice.

    I loved to do the dusting,
    removing grime to see the shine.
    The smell of lemon-scented pledge
    to me was just divine.

    Does anyone iron anymore?
    It seems a long lost art.
    Hubby and I can’t stand to see wrinkles
    So with ironing each day does start.

    So now the chores are divided up,
    over my children’s heads they loom.
    Dishes, garbage, sweeping, dusting
    and yes, cleaning the bathroom!

    © KED 2012

  21. Sixty-five

    Of course. It’s easier and faster
    to do the job your self. However:
    a child must have chores:
    how else will he learn responsibility?
    Chores are for farmers; and the lower class;
    families with fifteen still in diapers.

    A child must have chores
    to teach him to manage time.
    A child must have chores
    to teach him that nothing in life is free.
    Lazy mothers deal out chores
    then settle on the sofa with vodka
    and chocolates
    and True Romance.

    Sitting on the floor in the living room,
    Mama and I
    played Crazy-8s:
    loser washes the dishes
    (just another chance, please, best of five)
    almost every night.

    A child must have chores
    to learn his role in a household
    Chores are for those mothers can’t stay home
    and whose children don’t have fathers.
    A child must have chores
    to teach him to be a part of a team
    The fathers who demand chores
    follow other men’s orders all day
    and will, by god, have your respect
    A child must have chores
    to learn to work alone
    How many stars
    on the refrigerator door are yours?
    Have you done your chores?
    Go wash your hands.

  22. Waltzing With Dishes

    You dry, she said
    as if dishes were wishes
    and that was enough to enthral
    me with this earn your own keep
    horrible chore-ible
    sort of stuff.
    And so I dried,
    but in a misery-boots
    sort of huff ‘cause what I really
    wanted to do was play
    in a swervy,
    sort of way
    in all those bubbles that turned
    greasy, grubby dishes to squeaky clean.
    But what I really,
    really, really wanted
    was to wear those long,
    luscious, pink rubber gloves;
    they were like Cinderella’s shoes
    but for a waltzing with dishes.

  23. Finally had a moment to write for this prompt. Our visitor has gone back to Canada. This is the first response to this prompt. I’ll probably do at least one more. Hope you like it.

    Days on Needles and Pins

    Breakfast! Eggs, toast, sausage—
    Don’t forget Daddy’s lunch fixin’s!
    Get brother ready for visiting.
    Ah, where are we going to stay today,
    And is it on the calendar?
    Which neighbor do I get to help?
    Will it be running bloated sheep,
    Or laundry and lawn or
    Maybe only canning or garden harvest?
    Get clothes ready to wash tomorrow,
    And don’t forget to straighten the house.

    Please God, bring Mom home soon.
    Make her well and let us have her back.

      • Oh, Viv. I didn’t mean it to be heartbreaking. It was touch and go, but Mom did come home and live many healthy years. But for us, during those weeks of uncertainty, not knowing was a killer.

        I didn’t know until that event that I was capable of running a household at such an early age. I doubt any would without having it thrust on them. But all worked out all right.

        My mom never failed to know how much I could do. That was my primary lesson from the experience.

  24. Pingback: Waltzing With Dishes « Misky

  25. Put Through the Ringer

    The anti-domestic gene was surgically implanted
    In me at a very young age when my Mother insisted
    That perfection was a necessity in every facet
    Of housework or anything having to do with same
    Dusting was an uber sport, as was floor polishing
    Dishes, laundry, ironing – anything remotely
    Connected to keeping that house ship-shape
    And spotless – as well as the inhabitants and their
    Possessions – fell under the purview of my Mother
    And in so doing, fell in the realm of her control

    It wasn’t until many years and countless hours
    Of therapy later, I finally figured out that Mother
    Felt if she could control all of those things
    Her world would be safe and in control …
    A wrong assumption of course, oh-so-very wrong
    But growing up, there was no way for her or us
    To know that, and so we all suffered and danced
    To the tune of trying to be perfect, and learning
    To do all the things Mother deemed important
    To keep our world – her world – perfect for her

    So it is that I can iron shirts with absolute perfection
    Polish furniture to a reflection high lustre and sheen
    Dishes used to get rinsed to within an inch of clean before
    The dishwasher if I didn’t force myself to just put them in

    Now – I’ve gone to the other extreme – daring friends
    To write the date in the dust in my coffee table …
    I have a sign on my fridge that reads,
    “My house was clean yesterday – sorry you missed it!”
    And, bending over backwards to not be that controlling
    Person I grew up under, I am a sloth – work hard at being
    As undomesticated as possible … I feel good about taking
    My kids or grand-kids places, or doing things for or with
    my husband and being a good writer or working at that …
    But — if I feel myself beginning to obsess about the house
    in any way … forget about it.

    • Oh how clearly you have written my own experiences. And I didn’t learn better until my kids were grown and left home, so they suffered too.

      I’m better now, and waste hours blogging and quilting – and none of that is perfect either!
      Bravo for your marathon journey to sanity.

    • LOL, Wonderful, Sharon… My daughters’s house is usually a Wreck, until her children clean it up… 🙂 !!!

      • Thank you both Viv and Hen … it’s funny but not, if you know what I mean … now, because of being Bipolar, I have to be careful not to let myself descend into utter chaos; I am lucky beyond belief that the love of my life is willing to live in whatever state I seem to need, and then pitches in when it’s time to help us get out of the mess …

  26. I am late to this, having only just found it. I shall come back and read later, but couldn’t resist sharing the prose piece I have just written, which I should entitle: Chores Gone Wrong

    Never bake in a new sweater

    Cake-eating sewing ladies coming tomorrow. Must make a cake. Maria gave me some Bramleys, ergo it must be apple cake.
    Set to with a will, flagging towards the end. Once I could bake all day and play 3 sets of tennis in the evening. Now an hour is more than enough. Spring-sided tin refused to stay shut. Messed about with string, knotting several short pieces to tie it shut – being of a recycling frame of mind.

    Recipe said mix to soft dropping consistency. Ah, I learned that in school. Soft-flopped the mixture into the tin and popped it into 180˚C fan oven for prescribed 40-45 minutes until firm on top. Got on with a bit of blogging.

    Pinger pinged, cake prodded, Hmm. That seems firm and a nice brown. OK out onto the table, snip the string, ease with knife round stuck bits of paper lining. Invert onto wire rack and gloat.

    Take off pinny. Oops: heap of gooey-soft-dropped-mixture on table. Cake appears unchanged. Bung it back in oven in a hurry. Notice blobs of cake mix on protruding bits of new sweater. Weep.

    Scrape up blobs onto plate and put in oven. Forget about it. Eat burnt cake from plate while keeping careful eye on the remainder in oven. YUM. Whether it will ever be edible remains to be seen.

    Later…much later…Cake cooked and the major chore of oven-cleaning takes over.

  27. I think I’ve caught up now–strange thing happens–I get the email and then, when I come to the site the prompt disappears…and then reappears days later

    Chore Haikus

    Painful and pointless
    Pesky weeds would all grow back
    Now best mindless chore

    Mom and I joined forces
    Dishes do not wash themselves
    Bonded in the suds

  28. The Chores of Childhood

    It was a small town, a village really,
    and everybody had their special roles.
    There were six churches and with them,
    six types of leaders, one called priest,
    another two were pastors, three more
    by name and function, ministers.
    Not large enough for multiple choice,
    but populated aplenty to require each service,
    we had one drug counter, one hardware store,
    a small post office, an eight-lane bowling alley,
    Sal the barber, and the IGA grocery,
    owned and run by my family.
    There were also tradesmen scattered about,
    working from their homes and trucks,
    plumbers and electricians and such.
    Also scattered throughout the streets,
    most of which ended at the lake shore,
    were thirty or more taverns, but
    that’s a story unto itself.

    I worked in that grocery, performing
    most tasks, like checking and bagging,
    stocking and delivery, sweeping and dusting,
    marking prices on cans with black grease pencils.
    I steered clear of the meat counter, though,
    never trusting those knife-wielding butchers,
    unable to stomach the blood, the smells.
    When the summer folks arrived, mostly
    rich people who did not cook,
    I learned to make potato salads and cole slaw
    and baked beans, a vegetarian in the making.
    The wealthy did not shop, calling in their orders,
    and it was for me to take them their bags of goods.
    Sometimes, I broke an egg or twelve along the way,
    but they never tipped, so it did not bother me much.
    It always amazed me that these people
    with so much gave so little.

    My work did not end at that store.
    A sickly mother, an often absent father,
    a large yard, and the usual requirements of living
    all gave me chores in slew-size.
    I can’t recall if I complained back then,
    but I’m grateful for it now, that work experience.
    It taught how to cook, to clean, to care.
    It taught me the silliness of “someone oughta”.
    It gave me strength when my mother’s
    sickness turned to death.
    It gave me order when my father stayed absent.
    It provided the way to responsibility.
    It provided me with broad shoulders.
    It gave meaning to that lesson about
    Saint Francis of Assisi, where he was asked
    while raking the garden what he would do
    if he knew he would die that afternoon, and
    he said he would finish raking the garden.

  29. The Pain of Chores

    Chores are a pain.
    Those words
    Must have passed
    My lips
    A thousand times
    As a child.
    Who wanted
    To waste time
    Trapped in the house
    When fun and friends
    Beckoned from
    The yard,
    The park,
    The streets
    Of the neighborhood?

    Those years
    Have long gone,
    And today
    Chores are truly a pain,
    Ten minutes
    Of vacuuming
    Enough to unleash
    A raging monster
    Coiling around
    My spine,
    Sending me writhing
    Searching for ice packs,
    Heating pads,
    And painkillers;
    Folding laundry
    With numb fingers
    Little more
    Than origami torture
    In a washable
    Cotton-poly blend.
    I’d trade a million
    Spaghetti-crusted pans
    For just one day
    When the pain of chores
    Was not so literal.

  30. Pingback: Part 12 – It’s A Chore! | Two Voices, One Song

  31. Pingback: A Time To Reap | echoes from the silence

  32. Growing Up Poor

    Growing up poor was a blessing in many ways
    It gave me the opportunity to fend for myself
    And for my family

    Growing up poor meant making the right choices
    What did we need and what could we do without
    The needs meant survival
    The wants often lost out

    Growing up poor made us appreciate the little things
    Like growing a garden, chopping wood, or cooking
    We all had a part
    We worked together
    And we survived

    Growing up poor prepared me for whatever may come
    Poverty made me thankful for the gifts God would give
    God gave and gave
    More than was asked
    More than was needed
    And we gave thanks

    Growing up poor was worth its weight in gold

    (C) 2013 Earl Parsons

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