Sunday, January 4, 2009

Today's Musings

I've been thinking about what I miss from my childhood: Sunday gatherings at our house when aunts, uncles and cousins ate and played cards and took hikes through the woods; everyone eating at the kitchen table, then bringing their plates to the sink; ironing tablecloths, pillow cases, shirts and skirts and using a water spray bottle to dampen the cloth (weird I know, but I miss it); cooking everything from scratch, even noodles; making our Christmas tree ornaments; mom packing sandwiches, coffee, juice and fruit to eat on long road trips to visit relatives; wood cutting bees and weekly sewing club meetings; picking potatoes and strawberries to earn spending money; riding our bikes everywhere to visit friends; in good weather, building forts outside with branches and scrap lumber; in bad weather, building forts beneath the dining room table with blankets and cardboard; sleeping outside beneath the stars with a stash of homemade cookies and hot cocoa in the thermos; and snipping buttons and zippers off old clothes before they were cut into strips for rag rugs.

The demise of those activities mirrors the skills of my siblings and me.

At 55, I'm the oldest of four children and the only one who learned to sew, cook, iron, garden or be thrifty.

My brother is 54 and for the most part was a bully and then a thief. At 16, to "get him shaped up" he joined the Army. He made that a career, retired, and now works for the State Department as a sniper instructor or does undercover work. He's still a thug.

One sister is 50 and spent her childhood caring for our menagerie. She developed an affinity for injured wildlife and converted an old shed into her animal hospital. My mother reveled in her skill and promptly assigned her household chores to me. She became the family tomboy and never wore a dress until age 22. Instead, she had a collection of chainsaw, handguns and tractors. She restored a Chris Craft wooden boat, built her own log cabin and got a forestry degree. In her 40's she married and completely changed. Today, she lives in a modular home, doesn't allow pets in her house, has cut her hair, wears makeup and has pierced ears. She views my frugality as "nonsense" and "extreme."

My youngest sister is 45 and grew up being the scapegoat of my parents' deteriorating marriage. She lived in fear and I lived to protect her. Any domestic activity beyond boiling water was always a challenge for her. Then, five years ago she was prescribed an antidepressant and her life improved. She's learned to cook simple meals and vacuum and do laundry every week. She is the most compassionate of any of us.

My upbringing prepared me for much of life's trials but, left me feeling like I grew up in my parents' generation, not my siblings'.

For example:

A three day power outage where the 50-year-old sister lives brought this comment - via the youngest sister: "Yeah, I know, she would have done just fine but we're not hippies."

My youngest son is concerned that "I'm missing out on life" because I don't rent movies or own a cell phone and seldom eat out.

The stack of mending my daughter presents me with when I go home for a visit.

To my sisters and children being prepared means "being a worry wort" and my household habits are like "living in the last century."

To them, SHTF means Stop Having Tons of Fun. Genuine and authentic means having the latest version of the most popular brand. Resourceful means an ever expanding line of credit or buying two of the latest gadget.

The distance between us is measured less in miles and more in a pre-occupation with technology and busyness.

I spent hours listing to my grandparents talk about life in the Great Depression. I marveled at their skills and their ability to overcome challenges. I still treasure my maternal grandma's dumpling recipe and my paternal grandma's button basket.

I wonder if I'll see the day when my grandchildren gather to hear my stories. Will they even think to ask me about baking and cooking and, and sewing and mending, and gardening and preserving?


ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom said...

It's hard sometimes not fitting in. I've given up on trying for the most part. My family asks all the time why I do things the "hard" way.

I don't own a microwave, a vaccum, a blender, a bread machine, etc. I like doing things the old fashioned way and it's more rewarding to me when I do. I can cook on a woodstove or in a solar oven. I can handle a power outage without a breakdown or a run to Walmart. I love to can and grow herbs, etc. To me this is the easy way. It's the way without feeling tied down by society's demands and it's the way I like it.

But, for the most part, no one else understands except other people I find online just like me :)

treesong said...

I whole heartedly agree!

The "hard way" will be when all these coddled technocrats are unplugged!

HermitJim said...

I just wanted to say that you ladies are my heroes! If I ever have a woman in my life again, I hope she has your attitude and at least half your talent!

That would make me a very lucky guy indeed!

Have a good day.

An Unsheltered Life said...

We don't have central heating. People think that we're nuts for not putting in a system, but it doesn't get *that* cold in my part of Texas. Besides: the wood-burning stove keeps the place nice and warm, and it isn't dependent on any fuel source other than the firewood we throw into it.

This requires more work than pushing a few buttons on the thermostat, yes, but we save money on the electric bill *and* know that, when the power's out, our home is still nice and warm.

Besides: knowing how to make scrambled eggs in a cast-iron skillet on the wood-burning stove is pretty cool.

treesong said...

Dear Unsheltered Life,

Ah...cast iron cooking! I've pretty much ignored our gas oven too as anything baked in it will cook on top of the woodstove. I've made lasagna, roasts, scalloped potatoes, and even cookies. To bake cookies, lay a 13x9 or larger cake pan over the cookies and bake on a raised surface (I use the perforated liners from a pressure cooker or canner).

And Dear Hermit,

I hope someday a lady discovers what a catch you are. Thanks for your compliments. Treesong

Anonymous said...

Ahh TS, why they persist with calling it the "hard way" has me baffled. For me there is a natural rhythm to the magic of the "old ways" and I am only in my forties.

I have brought my children up in all these ways, however the daughter at 20, despite years of my influence is sadly mesmerised by the modern culture, my 15 year old son has so many old skills he is amazing. Strange how different children can turn out from the same parenting lol.

Actually, your post has given me an idea for one of my own...thanks LOL

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Treesong, they won't think to ask you. They'll KNOW to ask, and beg to listen...
Isn't it unfathomable how some really don't... understand (sorry; it's the best word what comes to mind immediately...)???

I'm a male,and a MAN. And remember my mom's spray bottle on the ironing board (and can emulate the activity..). I can cross-stitch, sew, love love LOVE cooking...
I laugh that the same folk today who ride $2,500 bikes for exercise find my using one (from a pawn shop; ~$100.00) as transport to work 'amusing'.
I grew up dirt-poor; my grandmother who did the same through the Great Depression, asks me "why would you want a pressure cooker?"...


If this is how it's viewed, I'm proud to be nonsensical, extremist, or labeled a 'hippie'.

Because some day, my siblings are going to show up @ my shacksteps,wondering...

I'd like it not to happen, but I see it all to clearly...

GREAT writing, Lady.


Mayberry said...

I feel your pain.... It sucks being the only one who "gets it", and gets beat down every time you open your mouth. Sheeple....