I have started reading a book for research in my writing. It is called "A Secret Gift," and it is about the gift of one man to one hundred fifty inhabitants of Canton, Ohio during the Depression just days before Christmas in 1933. He gave them a mere $5, but in those times it was an amount that was the difference between eating for a week or nothing. As you can imagine, the content is incredible and moving and has invoked in me the memories of the sheltered bliss of my own childhood. I am definitely not intimating that my childhood was any where near as stress-filled or anguished as those who survived the greatest economic downfall of our time (so far). And for those who like to poke fun, no I am not that old either! It just has me thinking very fondly about the times I didn't have so much on my plate and things just seemed simpler. So I have decided to start a project.
Yes, you guessed it, I am about to inflict upon you a blog project in which I get all misty and gushy over things I remember in my youth - distant as it may be! I have quite a few it seems that flood into my memory just begging to be looked over again and relived, if only just a little.
I have spoken here many times of my Grandmother and her influence in my life. She was a survivor of that same Depression I am reading about. This book has brought many things to mind for me and much clarity about her that I had not had before. Most of which stems directly from the practice these folks all seem to have of not lamenting about their circumstances. It is incredible to me, in my observations of my generation and the Y-gen coming hot on my heels, that they so stoically weathered whatever fate seemed to fall flat in their laps. They didn't cry foul, they didn't slump in their boots, hand out in expectation, they didn't even ask much of the time for the basic necessities of life. They just accepted that times were tough, everyone was in the same boat and they got very resourceful about how to handle it.
Those that did survive the incredibly difficult life of the '30s and early '40s came out marred, but stronger for it. Not all of them found their way out of poverty, but those that did retained a vivid memory of what that time was like. They saved, they lived frugally within a set of means, and they rocked on! My grandmother was one of them. She never ever forgot what living through that was like. She remembered the hunger, the need and the humility and she lived with a healthy fear of returning to that state. She believed that bathing was more important than the latest fashion because it was the least you could do. I remember her saying, "There is no shame in being ragged, there is only shame in being dirty." She reveled in the luxuries of life like mayonnaise, white sugar and M&M candies. And she loved her house.
I spent many days with Gramma at her home. My mother was a single Mom in my early years and I was lucky enough to spend my days in the arms of my Grandmother while Mom supported two girls, working at the local grocery. I loved that house! It was cool in the summer, warm in the winter and some of my earliest memories are recalled sitting in her "front room," wrapped in my security blanket napping on the sofa with the plastic covered arms.
Grandma's house was the land of many treats. There were M&Ms in the ceramic "CREAM" jar, Oreo Cookies in the cookie jar, Oranges and Apples in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator and often homemade popsicles in the freezer. Gramma was not the best of cooks, leaning on the theory that if it's brown it's cookin', if it's black, it's done! But I loved her chocolate chip cookies with the crispy edges and always just a little too much butter. Grandma was a huge patron of store bought ice cream and once made my youngest Uncle trod to the grocery to get more of the treat because he ate the last of it and I didn't have any. (I was not very popular with my teenage Uncle that day!)
I loved playing endlessly in the front room, blocks stacked here and there, Lincoln logs strewn about and many a baby doll lounging half dressed in attendance. Gramma always let me keep the television on and I watched endless reruns of "The Little Rascals," "The Brady Bunch," along with Looney Toones cartoons. She was patient with me and my sibling sister. We were rarely disciplined, but when we were it was crushing. Not because Gramma was harsh, on the contrary - We simply knew we had truly unraveled her last nerve!
Grandma's was where I first used a typewriter, read my first book, learned to love having my feet tickled and made my first mud pies. I loved it there. I miss her still and occasionally find myself longing to pick up the phone and tell her of my day. She never would have believed I own buffalo!
I remember the smell of wood polish, the sounds of the floorboards creaking and the dark upper hallway where I would set up my "office" to play secretary. The shocking Fire-alarm-like sound of the wall telephone would jolt me in my little chair and I would squeak out a yelp every time... It was Awesome! To this day, I love houses with the smooth white plasterboard walls and dark stained trim. It just brings it all back to me.
I had a wonderful childhood, sheltered from the stress and strife I notice my kids are growing up in. I didn't worry about the rent, or how much thing cost. I was coddled that way. It was a good time to be a kid in the 70's and I am very grateful for the time I spent with my Grandparents. Where my mother taught me how to be strong and resilient, my Grandparents taught me about frugal living and gentle spirits. I treasure both lessons deep in my soul.