Wednesday, February 25, 2009


As I dyed up a batch of laceweight merino this morning, I did something very uncommon for me. I worried.

I'm not a worrier by nature, but in these gloomy economic times it's difficult for even the most carefree spirit not to worry at least a bit on occasion. Perhaps "worry" is too strong a word, but my mind was certainly focused on the economy.

Today, a letter arrived in the mail to put things in perspective. For some reason, I immediately thought to share this with all of you. I'll cut out the personal bits, but the letter began with some family news and went on to mention a concern another family member was having over money problems. I'll pick up at that point in the letter:

... but I don't know if she is overdramatizing. After all, I lived during the Depression and I know what it's like to have NO money, not even the 2-cent fine for an overdue library book. We had electricity cut off because there was no money. A quarter-meter was installed in the basement, and when electricity was a must, we'd insert a quarter in the slot and we were given 17 cents worth of juice. The other 8 cents went toward paying the bill that we owed. We used oil lamps for light. We had no refrigerator, just an old-fashioned ice box. We had no washer, no radio and no telephone. That's what NO money means.

I've just finished taking a bath. A FULL tub of hot water. In those old days I was talking about, we had no hot water. We had to heat up a pailful in the kitchen stove and lug it upstairs for a skimpy bath. Now I luxuriate in the whole tub of hot water right from the faucet! I think nobody knows what the "Great Depression" means, except us who lived through it.

How I pray - Not again - not again!

This letter comes from my mother, who was born in 1923, a little girl during the Depression, living in Rhode Island with her parents and five siblings, eeking out a meager survival.

My father (long gone now) also lived through the Depression, although he was older than my mother and so was already a teenager when the Depression began. About two years before the Depression hit full force in 1929, he quit school at age 14 to go to work and help support his family. He lied about his age and got a job as a messenger for a Wall Street brokerage house. He worked for that same brokerage firm - moving slowly up the ranks to a lower level management position - almost continuously for 46 years, with the only time interrupting that employment being when he left to fight in World War II.

My parents' experiences certainly shaped the people they became, but at the same time, so much is dependent on one's own nature and perspective and view of the world. My mother is an eternal optimist. My father was an eternal pessimist. I am more like my mother in that respect and right now I think more than ever I must make a conscious decision to remain on that path. Staying in touch with reality and what's going on in the world is important. Evaluating and understanding one's own financial situation, and living responsibly within one's limits, is important. Worrying, however, is not. It is not productive, it is not useful, it is not helpful.

And, of course, when I worry too much, it interferes with what matters: Enjoying time with my husband. Knitting. And writing to my mother, to whom I owe a letter.


momsue84 said...

Wonderful post!! Amen, and thank you for sharing your Mom's letter. My parents, too, lived through the Great Depression. My father always told the story of eating jelly beans for lunch because he could only afford one meal a day. I used to cry every time I heard the story. We take so much for granted. Thanks, Deb.

BeadKnitter said...

I get a little irritated by people who are always complaining that they have no money when they've got food on the table, electricity, running water, and clothes to wear myself. These people don't know what it's like.

I have memories of coming home from school and asking Mom what's for dinner and her saying "I'm sorry, we don't have any dinner tonight." She was serious. Sometimes the government-provided free lunch I got at school was my only meal of the day.

I am not a depression child. I was born in 1959. My parents were poor.

~Tonia~ said...

My grandparents lived through it and the stories that I have been told over the years are just fascinating yet sad. Yes, people don't know who good that they have it right now. I hope and pray that it doesn't get as bad as the past.

Lynne E. said...

My parents lived through the Depression, although they were pretty well off because they both had jobs. They had to hide my mother's first pregnancy for as long as possible, though, because a pregnant woman was expected to resign from her job to free it up for a man who had a family to support.

If you are an optimist by nature, then that's wonderful! There is no reason at all why an optimist can't also be practical. :-)

Liz C. said...

Thank you for sharing Deb. It does put things in perspective, doesn't it? It also helps to think of third world countries who to this day live under conditions that were even worse than what any of us can imagine. Our bad times would be considered paradise for two thirds of the world. A wonderful reminder of what is really important.