Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Conversation With Grandma

We've (Grandma and I) had a busy couple of days with doctor visits. My grandma will be 90 this year. Sitting for hours in doctors offices can be stressful for her so we spent a lot of time "walking down Memory Lane" to distract her. She didn't tell me anything I haven't heard before, just lots of the same old stories, but I found myself listening to them with a different ear- maybe because I'm older, but most likely due to my sustainability ventures.

Instead of hearing, "you should be grateful that you have it better than we did back then" I heard "we lived how we lived because that was all we knew." She said it more than once, that line of, "that was all we knew."

The raising of livestock, gardening, canning, walking a mile to school... were all everyday things to her. I heard about the endless chicken dinners and how the one-room schools (named after the family who's land it was on) had a place to park your horse. She told me about her parents going to work war time jobs while she and her siblings took care of the home and farm. Her dad finished high school but "Mom didn't because most girls didn't do that back then."  And that was "all we knew."

And "people ate different." Usually "we had to sell a hog or some chickens for the money to go to the store for what we didn't make ourselves." There weren't any convenience foods. Going to the store meant "hitching a horse to the wagon so we all could go." It wasn't a quick trip every day for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. It was a family affair that took some planning. But "that was all we knew."

It was fascinating to listen to her memories about her younger days. I've always admired the amount of work that must have went into just surviving those lean years of the depression and WW2.  I struggle to not feel ashamed about how much we take for granted now, how much time we spend working for stuff that is so unnecessary. And now I can understand why my grandma says that the life we live now was harder to get used to than "all we knew."

6 comments:

  1. The thing that most impresses me about the older folks who lived through WWII is how they try not to waste ANYTHING. Things were hard to come by back then and many things were rationed, so people learned not to waste. Mom tells me that her Mom gave her 15 cents to go buy a bag of vegetables from the corner market. Then she asked the butcher for a few scrap bones, and Grandma made vegetable soup with it all and fed a family of seven on that 15 cents. My Daddy's Mama grew wheat and had a local mill grind it for her. She made jam with wild blackberries, then baked something Daddy called a Blackberry Jam Roll using her wheat flour....it fed her family of NINE. Daddy never ate a piece of beef until he left home in about 1950...his main goal in life was to never go to bed hungry again.

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    1. Until she went to the nursing home, Grandma was still saving bread sacks and milk jugs.
      The amount of food our country throws out is mind boggling.

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  2. I'm 65 I was raised like your grandma if we didn't grow it we didn't eat it. Mom would go to the store and always before we went in, she would tell us kids, I have $1.87 I have to get salt, sugar, and coffee ( items changed depending on the need) do not touch anything and do not ask for anything. When she checked out if she had a .05 cents leftover she would sometimes get a candy bar and put it in her purse and after we got home she would cut the candy bar in 3 pieces and give to us kids. And like your grandma that was all we knew.
    Sue

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    1. Maybe today's kids would be better off with just homegrown food and an occasional piece of a chocolate bar.

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  3. The knowledge lost from our elders is a tragedy, not just the things they knew how to do but why they did them and how they made do. I was blessed to actually work with my Father (Who was born in 1904) and so much of who he was came to me. We have to listen harder before its all gone!

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  4. I grew up hearing those stories too from my Mom. Her family raised chickens and had a cow. Her Mom grew a huge veggie garden (Nebraska). Her Dad was a mechanic and would barter repairs for milk, food, beef and what they couldn't grow. My Mom told me how she started drinking coffee when she was 7. Now enough milk for everyone. Her Mom kept the house spotless and they lived well into their 70's and died peacefully in their sleep. Not a bad life :) It remind how simpler things are better. I made a homemade lemon pound cake yesterday for father's day. Just a few simple ingredients and it was amazing. No chemicals, no colors, just real food.

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