My daughter, Hannah, and I have been visiting with my father recently and asking various questions about his childhood experiences.
He grew up during the Depression on Little Deer Isle, here in Maine. (Photo above is of Stonington, Maine, during the 1930’s). He’s always said, “There’s nothing to tell”, whenever I asked about it. Recently he started opening up a bit.
One thing he said the other day really stood out. It’s the first time he’s ever been brutally honest about his experiences. “You know, during those days we never wondered WHAT we’d have for supper. We’d wonder IF we’d have any supper.”
His mother would give him a dollar and send him down the road (at about 4 or 5 years old) to the little local grocery store so he could get a pound of bologna, or, if they were particularly lucky, a pound of “fish” – not sure what kind. Mackerel was plentiful during the summers here (still is) and so probably it was that.
“I never remember her ever bringing home even a bagful of groceries. There just wasn’t enough money for that. We ate whatever we could scrounge up. Potato and cabbage soup. Fried bologna. Eggs.” Makes you reconsider complaining about eating “that casserole again” for supper, eh?
He also said that he would just go in to neighbors’ homes and sit down in the kitchen. “I wasn’t much of a talker”, he said. The wives would give him a bit of something to eat and drink and include him in their family’s routine. All of his siblings were older, he’s the youngest of 5. “I didn’t have anyone to play with”, he said, “so I’d just go visit the adults”. He’d sit on barrels or boxes at the local grocery store and listen to the men talk and watch the checkers games, etc. too.
“The adults all kind of looked after us kids”, he said, “we all just wandered about, doing our own thing”.
“There was also a lot of visiting in the evenings, after supper. You never knew who would show up with a deck of cards. People visited a lot in those days. Played music. Listened to the radio, the stories and the news reports of the War. It was different then. People looked out for one another, helped each other. We were all hungry but we shared what little we had.”
All this got me thinking about today’s lifestyle of hurry, hurry, hurry. “No time” to visit family members. “No time” to have family dinners at the table – everyone’s running from activity to activity. “No time” to actually COOK MEALS, not just open a box or a can and call it food. People “sitting together” but their faces are bent over their phones. So very different from even when I grew up in the 1970’s and friends and family still “visited” in the evenings, playing games, maybe watching the Lawrence Welk show, enjoying a homemade dessert. But we were really TOGETHER, not just bent over a phone, all in the same room….
Isn’t it time to take an honest hard look at where we are and where we’re headed? Isn’t it time to open up our homes, have people over for a simple supper of vegetable soup and fresh bread? When we bake, bake extra to put in the freezer to “have on hand” for when “company” comes?
It’s time to get back to the basics of what makes a community – open homes, open hearts. Helping one another. Serving one another. LISTENING to one another. Feeding one another, physically and spiritually. Taking the time to sit with each other, lingering over a cup of tea and a piece of coffee cake or a muffin. We spend hours “connecting” on FB with “friends” but are we really connecting on a deep & meaningful level?
We are probably the most “connected” and yet the loneliest generation. The only way I know of to change that is to put down the devices and get to opening up our homes & lives to others. Let’s get going, shall we?