Friday, September 10, 2010

From Whence We Came

As I become more experienced in life, I find myself looking to the past as a way to understand the future. I won't pretend to completely understand the economics of past, but I will try to offer some of it's surviving arts to help enhance the living standard for the future.

Having never before lived in such financially challenged times, and having never fully understood the challenges it takes to feed hungry mouths before, my initial glance back is to the survival skills that helped my grandparents bring my parents through The Great Depression. Some of those skills have come forward as a part my everyday life from my parents. My father was born in 1921, so he remembers very well the struggles his family went through. My mother, born in 1926, remembers less, but was still greatly affected by it. He also cultivated asparagus, and rescued apple trees from falling down a bluff and planted it in the back yard to be amply rewarded with enough apples for years to come to furnish Mom's freezer and canning shelves, plus more to share.

Some of the traits of my parents that I attribute to Great Depression Trauma rank right up there with 'hugs & kisses' on my list of thing I love about my parents. My dad was one of the best multi-taskers that I have ever known. Most of the tasks that he set himself to involved his outstanding MacGyver skills. I think he must have taught those skills to MacGyver himself. He could fix a flat (or a car, or a tractor, or an air conditioner, or a washer, or a dryer) with nothing but bubble gum (or pine resin) and bailing wire (or twist ties). He learned those skills from working on the family farm when there was nothing else to use to fix the equipment.

My mom, closely challenging his survival skills, can feed a family of 5 for $10.00 a week. You think I'm kidding? It is really impressive. My mom, in her 80s still mows her own yard. It is not a small yard; in fact, it is large enough to yield enough wild greens for a wonderful side dish for all of her children and in-laws, grandchildren and in-laws and great-grandchildren. They are washed, boiled, then fried in an iron skillet with a bit of bacon grease (yes, saved from the breakfast bacon) and served with cornbread. Add a pot of brown beans cooked with the scraps from a previously baked ham and there is a complete meal for 25 for less than $5.00. Add the green onions grown in her little garden plot and the meal is now complete. She will even scare up an apple cobbler from apples grown on the tree Dad rescued from the bluff. While those skills are to be envied, please note that nobody eating that meal would notice that it was a practically free meal. Hey, the tea cost something, but considering that the hibiscus blossoms that enhanced that Lipton tea was also free, it wouldn't be that much.

So, as you might surmise, all of these skills were so commonplace in my household that my siblings and I thought that they were normal. One of the most difficult things to come to grips with while growing up was to realize that not everyone grew up with the same set of financially conservation principles that we did. We watched people being wasteful with food, clothing, and money, and even tried it out ourselves. Being a baby boomer gives a unique perspective to a lot of situations.

During the 'Back To Nature' phase of the 60s and early 70s, it did not surprise me to watch my friends struggle to live off the land. Those were some of the happiest of all of my friends, and thought I did not have the desire to do it myself, I watched as some of my friends learned some of the things that I had grown up just knowing instinctively, like canning, drying fruit, making clothing, and growing a garden.

I find that my thoughts keep going back to the skills that made my childhood so rich. Is this an attempt to recapture that time in my life? Perhaps, but I prefer to think of it as a way to make my future 'richer' as well as that of my children and grandchildren.

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