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Child Labor and Magnolia Leaves

January 10, 2011

My parents never had a lot of rules for my brother and me growing up. As members of a Baptist church, there were of course the standard restrictions against shows like The Simpsons or Pee Wee Herman. But once we were in middle school I guess they realized the die had been cast and such restrictions were no longer needed. Not because they just let us do whatever we wanted, but because they were blessed with angelic children who didn’t need a lot of rules.

In other words, my brother hid his transgressions and I was a goody-two-shoes who happily hung out with other goody-two-shoes. Actually, my brother didn’t have a lot of transgressions, so I’ve spent a good deal of my twenties reminding my parents of how easy we made life for them.

Magnolia TreeI also like to remind them that they were slave drivers. The only thing my parents never backed down on was cleanliness. It wasn’t until college that I realized some people leave their shoes in the living room overnight. I just figured it was written somewhere in the Human Code of Honor and Genetics that one couldn’t go to sleep until all your belongings had been put away. I don’t mind my inherited need for organization now, but as a kid there was one chore that made me question the sanity of my beloved parents: picking up leaves in the yard, one by one.

Beside our house was a magnolia tree. The branches of the magnolia tree usually grow close to the ground, but the house’s previous owners had cut the low-lying branches off so one could walk beneath the tree. The tree in question was sitting in a natural area. The key word here being “natural,” as in no grass, just pine straw and bushes.



My parents’ need for a well-manicured lawn included not having large magnolia leaves all over the ground. So they made my brother and me pick them up. By hand. One at a time.

Approximately 437 times a year (give or take), my parents would let us enjoy our Saturday morning cartoons, ignorant of the back-breaking torture we were going to endure as soon as Soul Train came on.

Side note: Was it just in this area that Soul Train came on after the cartoons? To this day I still hold resentment in my heart against that show, as if it’s to blame for the cartoons being over. Also, what a weird show to put on right after cartoons. Really, guys? Soul Train?

The injustice over this ridiculous chore does not end with working in the sweltering sun to pick up naturally occurring leaves from the natural area. Oh no, there is more. Allow me to draw you a professional-grade illustration:

Magnolia Tree

My brother’s portion of the natural area was to the left, and mine was to the right. Is it just me, or is it a little lop-sided? Is it just me, or was my family plotting against me, the youngest member of this outfit?

You might be thinking to yourself, “But Tiffany, Josh’s portion included most of the area directly beneath the tree!”

To which I say, leaves travel, people! They are not something tied to the ground just below the tree from whence they came! We are talking about objects of such little weight that even a slight breeze can move them, and trust me, they did move. And I will tell you where they moved—to my side of the natural area.

So while other children were basking in the glow of Saturday’s freedom, my brother and I were picking up leaves. And when my brother finished his chore, I continued picking up leaves because my area was twice as large and I was but a wee lass.

After my brother and I moved out, my parents cut down the tree. Now that their free slave labor was gone, they decided they couldn’t handle the errant leaves scattered about the yard like waxy puzzle pieces. They also order pizza once a week and watch The Simpsons. I’ll tell you right now: Parents go crazy when the kids leave.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeff permalink
    January 10, 2011 1:22 pm

    You really had it tough! When I think about the Dorrin’s, “slave drivers” is what comes right to my mind!

  2. Your Mama permalink
    January 10, 2011 6:24 pm

    I believe your recollection is a wee bit off. Slave drivers? I think not-character builder yes. I attest that you and your brother are characters.

  3. Daniel Strayer permalink
    January 11, 2011 8:34 am

    I will say that without my parents slave-labor at hand, they have come to enjoy the finer things in life. Like paying for a lawn service and actually cleaning the area area themselves. I always wondered how I was tasked with cleaning my parents bathroom. What the what?!

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