Thank you for visiting my blog; it is an exciting venture for me and I hope this will become a forum for moms and homemakers of all types to share stories, frustrations, and triumphs. There will be recipes, pictures of my latest and greatest soap creations, and anything I think will be interesting to Enthusiastic Homemakers.....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Keep on the Sunny Side of Life

With all the things happening in the world lately, today I was thinking about attitude, expectations and how they've changed in the last, oh; 75 years or so. I mentioned in my profile that I have a lovely next door neighbor, who turned 90 in January. For her privacy's sake, I'll call her Rose. In the nearly seven years we've lived in this house, she has been an inspiration to me. She has occasionally told me stories about her life, and her upbringing, and one of the anecdotes was really eye-opening and inspirational, and I felt I must share some of her wisdom. Rose was born in 1921 in a small town in Idaho. I remember ruefully telling her one day when I was pregnant with Elvis, that I regretted the necessity of having five children in such a small house. She chuckled and said, "There were five children in my family, and we lived in a three room house, not a three bedroom house". Later, I found out that since she was the oldest child, she had the privilege of having a small cot to herself, while her four brothers and sisters all slept in one large bed. She went on to tell me of the story of the day she turned 13; I will attempt to retell it in the spirit with which she shared it with me.:

It was January of 1934; Rose and her brothers and sisters lived in the top floor (probably little more than an attic) of a very small house, which had only a living area and her parent's room downstairs. She didn't share with me the details of the plumbing, but based on the location, a rural state, I'm guessing there was none. It was her thirteenth birthday; and also one of the coldest days in January that anyone could remember. Rose had just received a gift from her aunt; her very first store-bought underwear; at that time, it was common for mothers to make underwear for their children from empty flour sacks; I remember my own Granny telling my mother that when she was a child, all her underwear said "Pillsbury's Best" on them! Rose was so excited by her gift, and at the dinner table, she couldn't wait to show off her gift to her father. She ran upstairs to retrieve the precious gift, and when she got upstairs had the horrifying sight of a burning chimney! She ran downstairs, calling; "Papa, Papa, the chimney is on fire!". As she told me this part of the story, she got a very far-away look in her eyes, as if she could still hear the sounds from that long-ago day, and her father's words, as if he had just spoken. Her father, thinking she was joking, said "Hush, Rose"; but then her mother saw the smoke and, alarmed; called to her father as well. Her father's words were still so fresh to her, I know she was repeating this from memory; he said, "Nell, get the children out!", as he tried in vain to put out the fire. The fire department was called, of course; but because it was such a cold day and the roads were covered in ice (and most likely dirt roads); the fire truck was unable to get to their house. The whole family stood on the side of the road and watched as their house burned to the ground; with Rose's precious gift inside.

Sad story? Yes, but when the story was retold to me, it seemed almost bittersweet to her. Did Rose and her brothers and sisters need therapy to deal with the awful trauma of losing their home? I'm almost positive not. All those decades ago, there was a sense of community support, and also an expectation of people being able to handle things themselves. The thing that most sticks out to me, was that Rose wasn't telling me an awful horror story, it was just another pearl to the story of her life. What she has told me, many times; is how lucky  her family was during the Great Depression, because her father, unlike others, had a steady job; and as she said, "We never went hungry". Although she ruefully remembers the breakfast "schedule", of oatmeal, cornmeal mush, and pancakes; over and over; and that they did not get much fresh fruit, and no sugar. It doesn't seem to have harmed her, however. 

Whenever I speak to her, I'm struck by how much expectations have changed since then, and I wonder; are we better off now? When not being able to buy the type of food you prefer is a hardship, and the fact that you are able to avoid being hungry means nothing? When children expect, not just their own bed, but their own room and often their own TV, Wii, and cell phone? I hope to instill in my children a sense of gratitude for the fact that we have a warm and cozy home, a daddy who comes home safe every night, and almost any food we could desire. And I hope that, should I reach the age of 90, like Rose; I will have her determination and pluck; which led her to recover from a stroke that would have felled a lesser woman, and the sense of fun which prompted her, at the age of 88; to run down the street; simply because someone told her she couldn't!

A little word about my picture; "It Happened One Night" is one of my favorite movies of all time; funny, romantic, and surprisingly current. It also came out the year of my story; 1934; and always makes me think of the era in which my Granny, and Rose grew up.

I know this post is a bit of a departure for me; I hope I haven't bored you to death!

Happy Wednesday!


  1. Bore us? That is a great story! I don't know her but I love her. I miss my grandmother and her stories of she and her 8 brother's and sisters. She and one of her sisters worked in a sewing factory to support the family when they were young teens. They were even able to by a house that was large enough for the whole bunch by the time she was 14. She kept the house and I have such fond memories, thanks for bringing them to the surface today!

  2. How incredible for you to have someone like that in your life! I too am fortunate enough to hear stories about life "back then." My grandma will be 83 this spring and she is just as spry with her great grandchildren as I remember her being with us. The differences between generations is amazing! She is my kindred spirit, a homemaker herself, and never fails to bring inspiration to my daily life. Great post!!

  3. That's a great story and well told. So true how sometimes we have so much in our lives we forget the things that count. Thanks for writing this!

  4. Thank you for sharing this story with us. This is how memories stay alive and we can learn from our elders. I too hope to instill a little feeling of "gratefulness" in my children. Will we manage when everything around is telling them to buy-buy-buy and what they "need" so much??? Lets keep trying however ;)