. . . “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