It was 68 degrees yesterday morning when Lois Kemp rose at 6 a.m. to chauffeur her fourth oldest son on his newspaper route. By 11 A.M., after the mother of seven children had dropped off a daughter at water ballet practice and washed three loads of laundry, the thermometer hit 85 degrees and was still climbing.
For Kemp, whose family has not taken a vacation away from their Springfield home in three years, it was just another routine 12-hour day.
Kemp is the 40-year-old matriarch in a household of five sons, two daughters, husband James, two dogs and an assortment of pets including a white rat named Winston Churchill.
Though she had wanted to be a medical doctor when she was younger, Kemp's role of mother has instead made her a cook, laundress, chauffeur, housemaid, teacher, disciplinarian, friend, gardener, babysitter and family philosopher.
"I have no regrets. I don't feel unfulfilled," she said, raising her voice slightly to be heard over the high-pitched banter of Godzilla Super 90 emanating from the television in the adjacent family room.
Her youngest, 7-year-old Mary, watched the smirking, green monster traverse the boundaries of the television screen while 14-year-old Dan, stood in the kitchen and listened to his mother talk.
"There really aren't that many trials and tribulations, to tell the truth," Kemp said, and then broke off to admonish Dan, who was sculpting the margarine with a butter knife. "Don't play, please, put it away in the refrigerator," Kemp said patiently, and then wiped up a drop of coffee spilled by a visitor.
Her entire morning went that way - her conversations with visitors only momentarily interrupted with the more important tasks of her trade. Matt, 9, could not find his bathing suit; 18-year-old John was searching for the Tabasco sauce for an omelette; another load of clothes had to be put in the dryer; 11-year-old Kathleen had just returned from the pool; 17-year-old Christopher unsuccessfully tried to borrow $5, and 15-year-old Timothy would not get out of bed.
Kemp handled each development with a calmness that comes from 18 years of mothering. "I'm cool. You can block things out," Kemp said after first rousing Tim out of bed and then accepting Winston, the white rat, into her arms without flinching.
Then Kemp had to break off the conversation again - "I gotta kick the dryer on," she said and bounded downstairs to the strains of Daffy Duck on television. She returned and began telling of the swimming competitions involving Kathleen, Matt and Mary, and of Dan's piano lessons, but stopped again - "Excuse me, if I don't wipe the table something will stick to it."
She wiped it twice in 10 minutes, went over it a third time five minutes later, took a full ashtray from the hands of Matt, who was fidgeting, and started knitting.
"Boredom is not one of the big threats," Kemp said. "If you keep busy you don't have time for depression and things like that." She talked about John's trip to North Carolina to enroll in college and interjected, "Excuse me - Dan, that's too much cereal. Put some back."
When the pressures mount and the heat makes it worse, Kemp turns to her salvation - the icy waters of a community pool just down the street. She goes there just about every day.
"That's helpful in maintaining a relatively calm approach to things," Kemp said. "I try to make it to the pool at all costs."
Nine-year-old Matt, who had just been scolded for trying to sneak a puff from his mother's cigarette, returned to her side, draped his arm around her shoulder and leaned against her.
"What do you need?" Kemp asked the youngest of her five sons sweetly and expectantly.
"Nothing," said Matt. CAPTION: Picture, Lois Kemp, left, and her children head for the community pool. They are, from left, Matt, Christopher, Mary, John, Timothy, Kathleen and Dan. By Ken Feil - The Washington Post