Saturday, July 1, 2017


One of our "green-minded" young acquaintances shamed us into buying some CFL bulbs. Being skeptics, Les marked each one as Gerald replaced them, and one bulb, in a family room lamp, which burns continuously, has lasted more than a year. That was encouraging and I bought more. Recently, the young visitor was dismayed that we had not changed all the bulbs. As we were looking at one of the chandeliers, I said, "It's a matter of PRESENTATION VERSUS PRINCIPLE!" Gerald then did his imitation of my crying crocodile tears while proclaiming, "I don't want ugly bulbs in the chandeliers!"

The young whippersnapper sighed and said, "I guess it's hard for old people to change!" I asked, "Change? That's the problem; we have changed TOO much and people of your generation just want to throw away and get more instead of reusing and recycling."

I then launched into a lecture: "Let me tell you about conservation and recycling!" I told him that when I was his age we had no choice--we had to reuse and recycle--we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the stores for redemption. We had to walk up steps because we had no escalators or elevators in our schools and stores. We had to ride a school bus because our parents didn't buy us cars or have mothers as a taxi service. We didn't have $300 tennis shoes. We had TV, but not one in every room and we had to share the one telephone; nobody had their own "personal" phone. When we mailed a package, we used crumpled newspapers for cushioning, not Styrofoam or bubble wrap. The boys had to use a push mower run by human power. We had no allowances but had to work menial jobs to have any spending money. We got plenty of exercise and didn't need to join a health club or waste electricity using a treadmill at home. We drank from a water fountain and did not have plastic bottles with custom water! They used matches to light cigarettes instead of "disposable" ones; they refilled their pens and replaced razor blades instead of throwing away the whole thing.

We received a "free" Christmas tree with a load of coal. Mother had only cloth diapers; she didn't fill landfills with the indestructible kind. She made clothes using a treadle Singer sewing machine and we wore hand-me-downs, and in my case, "hand-me-ups"; we wore darned socks and patched clothes. Meals were made "from scratch" and not from "processed" convenience foods. She would cook any wild game the boys caught except for opossum or raccoon.

Mother used newspaper and kindling to start fires in the coal heat stove. For entertainment, we played card and board games; we even read "for fun" and not because we had to for school. We had no vacations. We had no bathroom yet we were always clean. My brothers had to carry water for my mother to be able to wash clothes on Mondays. The clothes were hung outside to dry in good weather and inside during bad weather. On wash day, we always had a pot of beans and either corn bread or skillet bread to go with it. I can still remember the smell of the clothes drying inside the house, mixed with the smell of coal burning, beans cooking, and cornbread baking. My mother would pick "greens" in the spring, tend the garden in the summer and forage for raspberries, blackberries, elderberries and make pies, cakes, cobblers and jellies. My grandfather would bring tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, green beans and peppers which all needed to be "worked up". We would have hundreds of jars "put up" although most were stored under beds because of lack of space. 

I can wax poetic about wilted lettuce and Kentucky Wonders but I realize how hard my mother worked to provide us with "special" things. As soon as I was able, I made sure Mother had modern conveniences such as washer and dryer, sewing machine, and freezer.

I wish I didn't value my modern conveniences so much.  There is no nobility in drudgery and I am happy I do not have to experience the drudgery my mother did.

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