Thursday, March 12, 2020

A season unlike any other . . .

As spring approaches we as a nation and as a global community, are faced with changes in our lives unlike any we have experienced in the past. While I listened to the morning news on the television, I had a visceral reaction to what was being broadcast. COVID-19 is in our thoughts, in our conversations, and in the news. As I reached for the half 'n' half to pour some in my morning coffee, I thought about how much I cherish my morning coffee ritual. In light of the world-wide Coronavirus pandemic, I wondered how much of what I consider to be a normal day will change in the near and distant future because of this event. I won't list the things that came to mind, because I am quite sure you, my readers, have your own list of concerns. I will write instead about what I learned from my parents about the times when they needed to tighten their belts and their purse strings just to survive.

My father was born in 1898 in Titusville, Pennyslvania. His childhood was spent on farms where his father was a tenant farmer. They moved from Pennsylvania to Alexander, NY when he was very young. They didn't have a lot of money, but I don't think they were poor. I believe they even had a little extra money to pay for piano lessons for his sister, or they traded produce they grew on the farm with the piano teacher for her lessons. As an adult, my father lived through WWI and WWII. There were limits on what they could buy. There were gasoline rations, travel bans to save on rubber and fuel, and sacrifices at home and on the battle fields. He learned at an early age to be thrifty and a saver. Later in life, it paid off. He and his father and brothers were able to purchase a farm and during the post WWII era and they became profitable. As a result, I lived a very comfortable life as a child on our farm. My sister and I had nice clothes, toys, and plentiful food.
Circa 1930.
My father's family poses for a photo.
My grandparents are on the far left. My father is standing next to them.
My mother came from more modest beginnings. She was born at home in 1909 in Wheatland, NY.  Her parents rented a farm until they were able to purchase a small farm in LeRoy, NY. They never had enough money and the small repairs to their home and barns were done out of necessity, more than for esthetics or modernization. My mother and her parents peddled eggs and butter to the local village and community and my grandfather raised hogs that he sold at the local livestock market. During the Great Depression, my mother's family "made do" with very little. She and her sisters took jobs as mother's helpers and worked long days chasing kids, cleaning houses and doing laundry for $3 a week. In my mother's diary, she wrote that she received a card of hairpins for Christmas as one of her gifts from her parents. During WWII, she used the sugar rationing coupons given to her by her aunt to bake cakes and cookies. The family that lived up the road from her had 13 children. The three oldest boys went to war. One came home. Of the 10 children who remained at home, those who had jobs in town were given butter on their bread, but the kids who didn't have a job didn't get any butter and ate their bread plain. Those kids who lived up the road from my mother all lived long lives...some well into their nineties. They were survivors.
Circa 1930.
My maternal grandmother on the right.
The neighbor with 5 of her 13 kids, and my mother and her sister are the older girls.
Photo was taken on the west side of my grandparents' house.
When my parents got married in 1948, they remodeled a very old farm house that was built in the early or mid-1800's. They added indoor plumbing. I think they may have been the first on either side of their families to have a bathroom with a tub and toilet. The convenience of a septic system was a big deal to them. I grew up taking these things for granted.

I used to watch my mother cut the buttons off of my father's old shirts and the buckles off of his well-worn bib overalls. She saved the buttons and buckles in jars and she cut up the shirts and overalls into rags for cleaning or for the men to use on the farm. Nothing was wasted and just about everything in our home had more than one life. It was how they were raised and they raised me the same way. It has taken a lot of re-training for me to use something as simple as a paper towel. My mother would use a dishtowel or a rag when something needed to be wiped up.

So, as I look back to the beginning of this post, and my thoughts about half 'n' half, I think of the food and water the cows need in order to produce milk. I think about the farmers who need to buy grain and hay for them to eat and straw to bed them down. I think about the farmer getting paid for the milk his/her cows produce and the employees that need to get paid for their work on the farm, and the effects of the changes that are occuring now and will in the future, based on COVID-19. I think about the stories that were passed down to me from my parents about what happened in their lives due to the two world wars and the depression. I never talked to either of them about the 1918 Flu Pandemic, so I don't know how it affected them or their family's lives. I hope that in a couple of months, our world will be past the worst of the effects of this virus, at least health-wise. The economic effects may be with us for a long time.

I had planned to write a post today about something that is currently on my studio work table, but this topic was on my mind and in my heart. It is my hope that you and those you love are well and safe. You always remain in my prayers and until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


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