Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Dark alleys of research

I was going to write a moving paragraph or two on saying goodbyes, a topic about which I know a great deal. I thought about the countries in which I have lived, the books and furniture I have shipped around, given away and sold and the friends I have left behind. I thought about who and what the Jaeckels might have had to say goodbye to.

Instead because my youngest decided not to cooperate, I flicked through a couple of magazines sent to me by someone I know, while my son combined a rampage through the bookshelves and toys with intermittent poking of fingers in my eyes.

With regard to these magazines, normally these kind of conservative religious earth-mother publications are not something that I would read. Anything that states its goal as being to “encourage women in their higher calling as wives, mothers and homemakers”; uses the phrase “feministic” whether derogatorily or not; or describes home-birthing in any level of detail, raises my hackles. However, I justified looking at them as research on the dynamics and mechanics of large families. You might remember that many of the migrant families in this area had seven or more children.

After a whirlwind tour through the backwoods of Tennessee and Texas (and to be honest, Queensland), I did learn that in large families, the younger children are often looked after by their older siblings thus enabling mum to do her chores. My mother-in-law has told me about changing her little brother’s nappies on the floor because she couldn’t reach the counter. She was about five years old and in charge while her parents were at work in the fields. Another woman in their village in southern Germany used to tie her child to a hitching ring in the yard while she worked in the fields. While everyone disapproved of this, they understood it too.

However, this wasn’t a particularly fruitful avenue of research. In fact, I was so depressed after reading two magazines that I required heavy doses of chocolate, coffee and the New York Times’ Sunday Review of Books.

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