I was washing out an empty margarine tub this morning, and it made me think of my grandmother. (This is my mom’s mother – not the Coke and potato chips grandma, that was my dad’s mom.) When the Great Depression started (October 1929) she was 26 years old. One week later, she had her first child – my mom. My grandfather worked for the railroad and didn’t lose his job, but times were tough. Then, World War II came along, with its shortages and rationing and victory gardens. For most of my grandmother’s young adult life, resources were scarce and people scrimped and made do every way they could.
My grandmother lived to be 90, and in all those years, I don’t think she ever threw anything away that could possibly be used again. I know other people have told me that their relatives who lived through the Depression did that too. It’s too bad that not very many of those folks are around these days; they’d probably have a lot of good advice for us.
Anyway, the reason that the margarine tub made me think of my grandmother – after she passed away, my dad and I went over to her house to start cleaning up, getting ready to sell the house. We opened up a kitchen cabinet, and about 50 plastic pimento-cheese containers, with lids, fell onto our heads. We laughed about it. Unfortunately, the containers were all thrown away after all, because there is no plastic recycling in the rural area where my parents and grandmother live(d).
I think that frugality as a lifestyle is hard for us as adults these days, because most of us have never been forced to do it by circumstances outside of ourselves. As with everything, we get better at it with practice, but it still doesn’t come naturally. And because not everyone chooses to or has to practice frugality, there isn’t a sense that “we’re all in this together” like there was during WW II. I think the federal government has contributed to this by encouraging everyone to “go shopping” and keep spending money. They certainly could have taken a different approach to the post-9/11 condition of our country, building on what happened during the disaster response in NYC to encourage the entire country to come together in a sense of cooperation and service. But that didn’t happen.
We have a phrase down here in Florida that the weatherpersons use when a hurricane is coming – “hunker down.” That means gather your resources and get ready. To me, it feels like we should all be in “hunker down” mode in our current economic and environmental circumstances. Maybe this recession (or whatever it is) won’t last long, but there will be another one, and our environment isn’t going to improve much at all (and more likely will continue to get worse). I plan to stay in a “hunker down” condition from now on, as much as is possible. How about you?