Monday, August 30, 2010

Cheaper than Babci? Maybe

Sandy at FirstGenAmerican.com recently posted about the extreme frugalism that her family members practised. She wants to know how many things on her list you've tried yourself.

Well, as I wrote in her comments, not much along the really yucky or questionable lines. My parents tried to be "economical" but only in generally accepted ways--no scraping pigeon droppings. Powdered milk, no air conditioning till I was ten and then it was one window unit, haircuts by a family friend, lots of hand-me-downs, one car until my younger sister learned to drive, occasional Spam dinners, things made out of overgrown zucchini, and the first generation of generic groceries. But that's what everybody did in the soaring-inflation 1970's. I don't think my mom ever had a clothes line, though--they seemed to go out of style for awhile along with nursing babies.

One of my grandfathers, though--he probably would have given Babci a run for her money. I think he wore the same suits for years. He didn't own or drive a car, so he rode everywhere on a bicycle, until he just physically couldn't anymore. He hunted wild mushrooms in the woods that turned deep black when you cooked them--my mother was always a bit nervous about those, but nobody ever frizzled up from them. He fed his cat on absolutely unthinkable pieces of fish and meat that he got for free or nearly so. (The cat outlived Grandpa.) Eventually, though, the extreme frugality got mixed up with increasing dementia, and he started stockpiling things like tin cans and old gloves, that really weren't useful, and reheating things too many times, until it was obvious that he shouldn't be trying to live on his own. Until then, though, he was one of our Depression-surviving frugal role models...not the first one that came to mind for me when I started writing this, but probably one of its true black belts.

I can also think of a couple of great-great aunts who lived in a small village a few miles from where we lived. I don't think their house (where they'd always lived) ever had running water. Even when they were that old and, you wouldn't think, very strong, they got along with a pump. How they managed their laundry and baths and so on at that point, I'm not even sure.

Some things we've been doing for so many years now that they're just second nature. I don't know if our kids always understand things like saving breadcrusts for crumbs, washing out Ziplocs (yes, I do, unless they're really horrible--and sorry, Ellie Kay, I know you think that's insane), and not having many TV channels. But they do get the idea behind yard-saling, making things, re-modeling (Ponytails has been experimenting with re-fashioning clothes), and even re-gifting (The Apprentice refurbished her own Barbie house last year as a gift for Crayons). They enjoy the free garden food (we don't get so many huge zucchini) and the apples from our two trees, and the stuff that Mr. Fixit gets to fix up like CB radios and walkie-talkies. They do get it, even when they think the older generation (that's us!) worries too much or takes things too far. I think that's always the same...then things swing back around.

We salute Babci, and Grandpa, and all our role models.

1 comment:

Sandy L said...

I forgot about the breadcrumbs!

Great post. Surprisingly one thing babci didn't do when I was born in 1973 was nurse me. Back then, they were pushing formula pretty hard at the hospitals. To this day she tells me her milk was "no good."

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