The Sad Dark Day I Learned That Homework Might be Forever


Darn Homework!

My family had a routine for doing homework for every school night. Once we finished supper, we helped do the dishes and clear the table. We would then bring our school books to the table and start to do our homework. My mother would supervise and make sure we completed it. Once you were done with your own homework you had to help your brother or sister complete their homework. This could be asking them spelling words or catechism questions. Once everyone was done with all their homework, then you could go outside and play until called into the house later. Forgetting homework or not getting it done was not an option. Mom would check and call one of my aunts or uncles to verify if I had no homework. One of my cousins was usually in my grade. My Mom would be upset if she did not think we were getting enough homework and let my teachers know about it. Obviously, this was a well-oiled and disciplined approach. When everyone was done, we were all done, no exceptions. If your brother or sister had trouble getting or understanding something, you helped them or you would not get a chance to play.

One day when I was about ten years old on a Saturday, I saw my father sitting down with two adult people, a woman and an Afro American man from his workplace. They had books open and he was explaining some things to them and they were doing math problems. These two adults were apprentices who wanted to become journeyman tool and die makers but I did not know this at that time. My mother was very busy at the time doing housework but that did not stop me from asking her what these two people were doing at the kitchen table with Dad. Not having the time to explain the full circumstances she just blurted out “They are doing homework, Tommy.” She then left the room to do other household chores.

My heart dropped and I was devastated. Here there were “big people”, and they were still doing homework! I had held out hopes that once you became an adult, the days of homework were gone. My dreams of eventual homework freedom were cruelly dashed. Later on, my Dad would explain to me that these were the apprentices who were to become journeyman in his company. He had taken on the training of them to ensure that they received a fair shake. My father was the president of skilled trades union and the automobile parts company wanted federal contracts which required minority hiring. Opposition was strong against such a move but my Dad, who was well respected by his fellow journeyman, appealed to their practicality and sense of job security. Since many of them had lived thru the great depression and layoffs, he just reminded them that having government contracts would lessen the prospects of layoffs and increase the prospects of overtime. The new trainees were approved, and since no one volunteered to train them, my Dad volunteered to train them.

Thus, you now know the origin of story about the “big people” still doing homework and my dream of no homework being dashed forever.

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