Everywhere one looks these days, there are news stories, blogs, and what-not about how people are cutting back, saving money, getting out of debt and making do with what they have. My blog is just one of them, but I am not sure that most of us can even comprehend what it means to be truly poor. I still have a computer with internet, I have a closet full of clothes, my cupboards are full of food, I have a newer model car with a tank full of gas. Although I have cut back considerably, meaning I haven’t bought any new clothes for myself, gone out to eat recently, gone on vacation, or bought anything that wasn’t a necessity, I think I’d still be considered rich in many places in the world. My standard of living is also well above that of my forebears.
I will go back a few generations to illustrate my point.
My mom started working in the family restaurant when she was ten years old. She had three outfits to wear to school that were alternated through the week. When she was a little older, she had to make or buy her own clothes with the tip money she earned waitressing.
My grandmother was the oldest of five children. She was a teenager through the Great Depression. She told of eating “soup sandwiches” where they opened a can of undiluted soup, sliced it and spread it onto bread. Her father owned a plot of muckland in upstate New York, so they always had vegetables of some sort. They were too poor to buy meat, so they would gig frogs and eat frogs’ legs to suppliment their diet with a bit of protein. They got their milk from the milkman who dipped out their portion from the old fashioned metal cans. After a while, they lost their home and that land, so they rented for the rest of her growing up years.
My great-grandmother was born in the late 1800s. She was the sixth of nine children. She told of eating lard sandwiches (slices of lard on bread) and once in a while for a special treat, the childen were given clabbered milk instead of lard (picture milk about to go bad, all lumpy and smelly~that was a treat!). When asked what else she ate, she replied, “Mush! Mush for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” Despite their poverty, however, the vagrants marked their property as one that would give a handout. Poorer than dirt, they still found extra for those “less fortunate” than themselves.
How spoiled I am, to complain about what I don’t have! Shame on me and the rest of us, too. No matter how little I have, I know that women in my family have done with less, survived, and were happy.