My mother’s childhood pastime: Churning butter

So, my mother’s birthday just passed, and instead of waiting until Christmas to give her the antique butter churner I found for her, I gave it to her for her birthday. I just couldn’t hold off until December. The butter churner was just too awesome.

Her eyes lit up as she opened it, and tears started to form as she examined it as if it were made of gold. She turned the crank, and watched the little propellers inside move, laughing, giddy like child discovering a light switch.

“You like it?” I asked.

“I love it,” she said putting one hand over her mouth. She continued, “when I was young, only wealthy people had these.”

“Really? I thought everyone had these, or some rendition of this,” I said, surprised.

“What? Nooooo, honey!” she laughed, “We used to have to take the cream, pour it in a bottle, and then shake that bottle – sit down and bounce the bottle on our laps, until that cream hardened.”


“You heard me. We would have to basically shake cream in a bottle, for hours, until it became butter,” she confirmed, no smile, no joke. “They used to make the kids do it, because it would occupy our time and keep us from running around. It was pretty much what the TV is for kids today, a babysitter.”

Wow. Three things ran through my mind.

1.) Count our blessings. Internet, television, radio, books, all a privilege. My mother had church hymns, and a choice betwen picking cotton and shaking cream into butter.

2.) We’ve (I’ve) lost touch with this reality. This history. We need our parents and grandparent to tell us the stories. All of them.

3.) The differences between rich and poor, have always been a matter of access and convenience. My mother had butter just like them, she just had to work a little harder for it.

4.) I bet that was the best damn butter…



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