The Word for Wednesday is . . .

. . . “poor”

What IS ‘poor’, exactly? Is it not having whatever the TV ads have decided to convince you that you lack? Is it not having ‘enough’? ‘Enough’ what, exactly?

Narf77 sparked a lot of thought last night, when for some weird reason I was awake from before 3 am ’til close to 6. I grew up a bit like that, too. Dad hunted every autumn and we often went fishing in the summer. I never caught anything in fresh water, though. However, Dad took my three oldest brothers fishing one time and they came home with over 70 brook trout. Mum and I cleaned and fried them. There were enough for all 11 of us, plus a couple for the neighbour kids who dropped in. That was pretty much supper that day!

We didn’t have much in the way of possessions, either, and at Christmas would usually find a small gift from Santa and another from  our parents under the tree. Occasionally a relative would send a box and there would be another gift or two for each of us. That felt like riches to us!

Mum grew a garden, sometimes two or three, every year. We drove to the Okanagan Valley in mid-summer, sometimes several times, returning with boxes of cherries, peaches, apricots; whatever was ripening. Sometimes we bought fruit from orchards near where we lived. Mum and I would ‘can’ (bottle) dozens of jars of fruit and tomatoes. When you think that two quarts of peaches meant a small dish for each of us for dessert after supper, you get an idea of how much fruit we put up. We never had a fridge or freezer in those days. I think I was 16 or more when we got the first fridge. We kept leftovers, when we had them, in a screened box built out from the house just above the kitchen sink (on the north side and in the shade). There was a door to keep the cool air out of the house in cold weather.

Mum baked all our bread, cakes, pies, cookies (a dozen cookies meant one each and two for Dad). She baked at least three times a week, for we always took cookies to school with our lunch and usually had a snack when we got home. There was always dessert after supper; sometimes pie, sometimes cake, sometimes the canned fruit.

Mum sewed most of the clothes for the four girls and made most of the baby clothes, too. She knitted and crocheted, making not only wearable items like mittens, scarves and tuques, but also the decorative items that made our house a home. She wrote poetry and has a scrapbook with her work in it, many are cuttings from papers and magazines. A few of her pieces were read on the radio. It’s old-fashioned poetry that scans and rhymes, so it wouldn’t count for anything nowadays, but we love it. Mum also embroidered and later learned to use fabric paint (Artex); going on to teach classes in it.

My Dad fixed anything that needed fixing, including the car. He built anything we needed built, too. He could do anything. After he retired, he took up making stained glass items. He and Mum would buy an old house near one of the kids, then renovate it, re-sell it and move near to another of the kids. I lived on Vancouver Island and moved often, so they never lived near to me. Mum took up weaving after several years of study and will be back at that once more  of my stuff is out of the way. I started weaving before she did, but she has done far more of it. In the last house they lived in, my Dad made several stained glass windows and replaced an upstairs door (that had led to a very rickety balcony, which he removed) with a door-sized stained glass piece showing a flowering tree in spring. Mum wove a runner for the stairs there, too. I have pictures somewhere.

My parents followed the old maxim, “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do or Do without”. They fixed, repaired, refurbished, all their lives. After retirement they also loved to go to auctions and country sales, buying antiques and refinishing them. The best they would keep for a while, the others would be re-sold.

Mum darned our socks when they had holes. None of the modern throwing out of anything not perfect. We had patched clothes to wear out at home. We got new shoes in late August for the school year and a pair of boots if we needed them. Most of us wore hand-me-downs, but it wasn’t an issue then. Most kids did. I would get a box of clothes from two older cousins every year and that was always exciting! I had my first new store-bought sweater when I went into grade nine. I was 13 that year. It was blue. It wasn’t any more exciting than the things from the box, though. And the jacket I remember most vividly was the little red boxy jacket my Mum made for me when I began school. I still remember the texture of the wool, the feel of the pockets, the buttons on the front . . . better than anything kids get now!

I began writing about poverty, but Miss Narf7’s post sparked memories, too, as you can see. I’m in the process of setting up a second blog, where I will post memories and family stories. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Meantime, Mum is home and needs her computer back 🙂

More on ‘poor’ later. If you have time, why not share your thoughts on poverty as we perceive it these days or your own stories of growing up rich in everything that mattered, even if ‘poor’ in material goods? I’d love to read them.  ~ Linne

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17 thoughts on “The Word for Wednesday is . . .

  1. I was the youngest in my family and the only girl so I was spoilt rotten. My mum sewed our clothes and we all thought they were great. We have some great slides of us dressed in mum’s sewn clothes. She even sewed my year 12 dress. When I look at it now she must have been swearing under her breath! It was all satin and fine chenille, very slippery and a bugger to sew lol. It must have been nice for her to finally be able to sew girly things. I know I’m looking forward to and hoping like anything, that I have a granddaughter 🙂

  2. We were “poor” if that meant owning a house or having luxuries….but we were rich if you look at the memories my mom created for us out of nothing. ❤

  3. Ironically, I was thinking along these lines yesterday while out walking. I was thinking we may not have much monetarily, but still we have a lot, and that we were rich in that we had nature surrounding us. We can hike on our own property, no driving to parks or out of the way hiking trails, although, we do do that now and then. Also, I think prosperity one day may be judged according to living off the land skills.

    • So, so true! I think it’s time we all paid more attention to defining words before we use them. It sounds like all of us were technically ‘poor’ as kids; yet none of us felt poor. We didn’t miss much, as we had all our needs met; besides you don’t miss things if you don’t know they exist. I’m beginning to think it’s a form of child abuse to expose kids to tv ads for hours on end, then either deny them what’s on offer (because it’s not ALL in our budget) or go into debt trying to keep up with the Jones’ (and THEIR debt!!) the kids are either miserable for not having whatever or miserable ’cause they are buried in whatever. I had way more fun reading and running around in the woods whenever I could! And a gift was a source of joy, treasured and cared for, not immediately ‘re-gifted’, broken or lost.

    • You are rich in MY books, anyone who owns property is; and a piece large enough to walk on like that is SO good. I agree about skills, too. My skills aren’t as developed as I’d like, but I do have some. As well, I’ve read about many more; enough to help a lot if I’m ever in a survival situation. A strong problem-solving mind doesn’t hurt to have, either.

  4. I think we shared the same childhood! That farm I talked about (the 100 acres where I learned to be a quintessential magpie AND feral 😉 ) had only tank water and very little in the way of modern conveniences. When you imagine Western Australias summer temperatures think Texas…hot as hades and mum had only a wood burning stove to cook on and an ancient “copper” (had to have a fire lit underneath it to heat the water to wash clothes) for washing. We didn’t have a telephone and I don’t remember a fridge (must have had SOMETHING…probably a Coolgardie meat safe, a rectangular metal box with holes in it that you draped a damp cloth over and hung in a tree to protect your meat. You just reminded me of “Hobbytex!” Fabric paint that came in all kinds of colours and some was sparkly and some was puffy…my mum did that as well :). As I said, mum baked everything for us, we never went without food and I didn’t know that we were actually poor till quite late in the game. I think “poor” is sometimes a state of mind. I know that mum had a really hard time making ends meet sometimes BUT she must have been very good at doing what she did because my childhood memories are of running wild on 100 acres, swimming in the summer and dragging our heels walking down the long driveway to catch the bus ;).

    • Parallel lives, hemispheres apart! and now we meet at last! It’s so interesting to read of your family (and the families of all you lot!) I have a smaller oval ‘copper’ in my storage in Vernon! Can’t remember where I got it now; I’ve been scavenging and salvaging all my life . . . I’ve makeshifted a form of Coolgardie at times myself. Great if you are living wildish in the bush. I’d never trade my childhood for a modern one (here, anyway). It wasn’t all roses, but whose childhood is? I prefer to remember all the good and treasure what I learned. I do wish life had been a bit easier for my parents, but they chose to work hard and sacrifice so they could build a better life a few years down the road. They never complained and slways found humour in things. I was SO lucky!!

      • That’s a REAL childhood Linne 🙂 None of this “I will buy you a jeep if you just leave mummy alone…here take this playstation/phone/iPad and go to your room” buying off your kids for a bit of peace and quiet. I roamed 100 acres and knew every single corner of our property and that was before I was 10! We had 3 dams, a large body of seawater, a river and countless snakes, large horned cows etc. on our property and the only time I did some serious damage to myself was falling over my brothers tricycle and cutting my leg to the bone! I got my inbuilt adoration of all things nature from my early (poor) childhood. I learned that frogs come out of tankstands but then I had to process how the heck they got up there in the first place! A questioning mind is tantamount to learning and the next step was devouring box after box of books. My parents were both avid readers (my dad speed read for the queen 😉 ) and passed it on to all of us who have passed it on to our own children. Books (and now the internet) and the key to a free education and a way to awaken yourself without having to pay. Precious things and something that I treasure (my preciouses 😉 ). I count myself as one lucky little camper to have had the childhood that I had. I learned more than I could ever have hoped to teach my own children and tried to give them similar experiences (albeit keeping them home from school occasionally and heading out into the wide blue yonder to go on an “adventure” 😉 ). I, too was SO lucky and even though there were bad times, it all went to building my/our character and I wouldn’t swap it for anything :). I have to also say, that sometimes you just can’t see the good in something. A situation will arise that really tears you apart. What is this happening for?!!! You question God, yourself, ANYTHING as to why this terrible thing is happening to you and 20 years down the track, everything comes together and suddenly you see that the “terrible thing” was changing your direction on the pathway so that you could arrive where you are right now…you never know what is going to change your life for the better and what experiences you are going to need to help you cope. EVERYTHING works together to deliver you to where you need to be. That’s my motto :)…also “if you are meant to get something you will get it”. No more running around garage sales or racing out the door at 4am to hassle poor long suffering sellers…this little black duck lets fate hand her what she is meant to have and it works every time 🙂

      • Oh, I love reading about your childhood; SO many parallels; or as near as makes no difference, as they say . . .

        I share your love of books and reading and re-reading, too! When I first read of the destruction of the library at Alexandria and the book-burnings in Italy, Spain, etc. I nearly wept. And much as I love art and all, I cringe at the thought of ‘altering’ an old book. Or ripping out pages to collage, etc.

        When I was a toddler, Mum held me on her lap when she read, newspaper, book, anything printed; I was reading at four and read what they now call ‘chapter books’ before I went to school. From then on I averaged a book a day, sometimes more. I don’t know what constitutes speed-reading, but most of my life I read well over a page a minute.

        We are on the same page ;-P when it comes to learning and thinking, too. I just wanted to go ‘yes, yes, yes!!’ as I was reading . . .

        Most of my books live in the storage unit in Vernon (BC) and I miss them. I will NEVER have enough books . . . sigh . . .

        And the ‘terrible thing’ . . . I’ve had a few of those, too, and you’re right; in the end they are for a reason; they shape us and painful or not, I wouldn’t give them up. At the time, I would have, though . . . lol

        I remember reading that life is not a playground, meant only for fun; it is a gymnasium where we grow, develop and learn. That has gotten me through a few rough spots . . .

      • Everything is in a constant state of flux and while it might look like chaos it’s really just trying to reach equilibrium 🙂

      • SO agree! Although the ‘chaos’ may BE the equilibrium . . . To me, it’s all growth and development. Fascinating, isn’t it?

  5. I really loved reading this Lynne, I love family stories and your family sounds wonderful, making do and sewing and growing their own food. Luckily for me I have never felt poor(or rich!) but I have stories from my grandmother whose father died when she was twelve and she had to go to work to support the family, stories about pawning possessions to pay the rent etc. My father and his parents were displaced persons after WWII and had to leave everything and live in a camp for years before they were able to come to Australia. When ever I am feeling the lack of something material, I remind myself of them and remember that I lack for nothing really. I think it’s sad sometimes that we’ve moved away from living like your family did. We’re all so stressed in modern society running around, working so hard to buy things we don’t really need, I often yearn for a more simple life…

    • I can relate, WO; my Dad quit school about the same age to pick strawberries for 50 cents a day to help feed his family (parents and two older brothers; his two sisters were older yet and already married. Two brothers somewhere between the girls and the boys died in infancy, one from illness, the other was being changed on a table, rolled off and broke his neck. My boys were super active from day one and I always changed them on the floor because of that story.)

      When I was about two, my parents, myself and my aunt, uncle (Mum’s sister, married to Dad’s brother) and baby cousin were living in what had once been a general store in the lower Fraser Valley. It was a very bad winter, lots of snow and very cold. The firewood ran out and there was no way for the men to go out and get more. They ended up breaking up most of the furniture and burning it so we little ones didn’t freeze.

      One thing I admire my Dad for very much (and I only learned this after he died in ’99) was that when I had been weaned to bottles, if Dad was out of work, he wouldn’t buy cigarettes until he found work and had a paycheck. All that without complaining or being grumpy; like many boys of that time, he smoked before he was 10, was encouraged to smoke while in the Army during the war and had a three pack a day habit for much of his adult life. I have known parents who bought smokes, booze, pot, etc. for themselves (or went out) whether or not their kids had food and clothes.

      Like you, WO, I can’t complain; many of my challenges were self-made or -chosen; it’s different when one has a choice. I’ve read a lot about the early 20th century, esp the wars and some about the camps; how hard that must have been! One book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, gave me so much to think about; I now know that, while I have no control over what may happen to me in this life, I have total control over how I meet it; in our minds we are always free.

      I think many, if not most, of my readers also yearn for a life that is simpler; harder physically, perhaps, but with less stress and more rewards and satisfaction. Each person brings me a gift through their comments. I love it when I suddenly am shown something new or am challenged a bit. As we each grow and create our better world, we make the difference. Villages and tribes were once defined by geographic proximity, now we form a new People, drawn together by similar thinking, taking the best from each other and bringing it into our physical communities. The understanding, support, information, idea and thought sharing is greater here than I have ever found. This is one thing I wish had been there for me years ago.

      • I do love language! When I was a child I made up words (I really wanted to create languages, but had no idea how complex that would be), then I’d play ‘school’ with my sibs and try to teach them my words . . . it wasn’t that successful! lol We all live puns and wordplay to this day; I think that comes from our Mum.

  6. I think it was a good life and gave me strengths and skills I might have missed out on otherwise. And my parents went without for our sakes, too. I remember Mum putting cardboard in her shoes; they could only afford new shoes for those of us going to school. She had to wait, holes and all, for later in the year. What I admire most, though, is that they never complained and never said anything like, “look what we did/gave up/went through/etc. for you kids”. Never a single complaint. You have to admire that! Nothing was perfect, but neither were we kids. That’s life, though. I’m glad I’ve had the one I’ve lived, warts, hard passages and all. There have been also great rewards along the way. I’ve been very lucky to have had so many of my dreams come true, even though I rarely had any $$. There are other ways to get where you want to be! Thanks for dropping by, Rabid. ~ Linne

  7. We never had a lot of extra cash growing up and when my father ended up on workers compensation after a mental breakdown at work, just before the recession of the 90’s, we were doing it pretty tough. We never went without though although mum certainly did. 😦 Somehow through it all we were still spoiled at Christmas and sadly never wore second hand clothes (My younger brother and I are the eldest grandchildren on both sides of the family so there was no-one to hand clothes on to us) but what we wore we wore til we outgrew it or destroyed it and Mum made a lot too. We are trying to live life frugally now and your childhood resonates deeply. What you’ve grown up with is what I aspire for.

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I look forward to reading your comments. ~ Linne

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