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'.
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?