Everyone knows about the “Baby Boomer” generation, right? What about the generation that gave birth to the Baby Boomers? They’re still out there you know. However, their numbers are dwindling, rapidly.
Most of the younger generations, I have either lost track of all their designations/descriptions, don’t appreciate or understand the knowledge and wisdom that will soon be lost as we lose the PBB generation (Pre-Baby Boomer). My parents are from that generation and they both have their own stories to tell. The majority of the parents of the Baby Boomers were raised during the Great Depression, 1929-1940.
The story I want to tell today is about what my parents taught me. As the oldest daughter of three girls, I have had the advantage of knowing my parents the longest. I know this seems like an odd statement, but I value knowing no one can ever take that away from me. I remember a lot of things that my younger siblings were never able to experience, both good and bad, and I treasure those memories. They are mine, and mine alone.
|Mom and Me!|
Mom was the third child and oldest daughter of 11 children. Grandpa worked on the railroad. One of my favorite sounds is that of the train whistle. I’m told Grandma sometimes cooked for the railroad workers. It was the time of the depression and they had a lot of children to clothe and feed, which meant that my mother was in charge of taking care of her brothers and sisters and getting them out the door for school. Mom used to tell me stories about having to put the ringlets in her little sisters hair, all five of them, plus her own. She didn’t have an electric hot brush. She had pin curls and a “hot iron” that was heated on the pot belly stove in their kitchen. (That’s why my sisters and I all had pixie hair cuts until we were old enought to take care of our own hair, and then a little bit longer). She cooked, she cleaned, she did all the things a mother would do at a young age, for her siblings.
Because of Mom’s hardships growing up she made sure the girls (my sisters and myself) never had to do some of the hard chores she had to do (washing clothes in the kitchen sink). She also taught me to “make do” – if you didn’t have what you needed, you “made do”, you figured out a replacement, or did without, and you didn’t whine about it. Mom also taught me that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. You just do what you have to do to get the job done, and you don’t whine about it.
I know Mom gave up a lot for us girls, so we wouldn’t have to do without some things. Mom always kept the cleanest house. She made our dresses. She cooked foods from scratch. She never whined about it.
My mom was and is no snowflake! One way or the other Mom made me “tough”. I hated doing dishes, but Mom made sure we knew the importance of eating off of clean dishes! We used to joke that you could literally eat off her kitchen floor because it was that clean. It was no joke. You really could. I learned how to clean house from Mom. You’d be surprised how fast you can vacume and dust a living room if you want to watch American Bandstand on a Saturday morning! I learned how to refrain from whining about doing things that needed to be done from Mom. I learned that when something needed to get done, you simply pitched in and helped. You didn’t wait to be asked. I’m still the first one to jump up for the paper towels or band aides when there’s a spill of milk or blood or whatever, it’s instinct. I don’t whine about it, it’s just what I need to do.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, one of the most important things Mom taught me was not to whine about it. You do whatever is needed to get the job done, you don’t give up and you don’t whine about it.
|Dad and Me!|
Dad’s family was a little smaller, there were only seven children in his family. Dad was the baby of the family. I remember stories about how they raised their own chickens, had a sparse garden, they ground their own wheat for flour to bake bread from scratch. Grandma Celia was an excellent cook and my favorite dish was her chicken pot pie! They, meaning the whole family, walked into town and worked odd little jobs to get money to buy a few groceries. Grandma taught me how to darn socks (mend with interlacing stitches). Nothing was thrown away and everything had more than one use.
My dad is my hero! I’ll just be totally blunt about it, I think my dad ROCKS! Dad can’t read sheet music, but he can play more instruments than anyone I know, including “the spoons”. He can hear a song and just “pick it out” – and within a few minutes he’s playing & singing it like a pro! Dad sang with my cousins and uncles and aunts, on both sides of the family at all of our family gatherings. He was in his own country band, way back when. We always had music at our house! Dad was in the Navy (that’s how I got my name!). He worked on the railroad. He dispatched for the police department. Mostly, he was a mechanic. He was a great mechanic and taught me a lot about taking care of my own cars.
I don’t remember not knowing how to waltz or do the two-step because Dad taught me by letting me “dance on his toes”. Dad taught me how to drive, how to fish, how to figure out stuff. Dad could make something from anything! And he did, often. Dad could fix anything. He wasn’t obvious about any of it (well, except maybe his music), he just did it. Dad taught me to get to work early, coat hung up and ready to start working at 8am, not just arriving at 8am. Dad taught me to always do my best, not necessarily for the boss, but because it was the right thing to do.
Dad also had a sensitive side that a lot of people didn’t get to know. Dad was always willing to help people. He was great at making us laugh. More than once he would sneak me a chocolate bar and tell me “don’t tell your mother or sisters, this is just for you.” I was the one he took fishing with him the most, partly because I was the oldest, but also because I wasn’t a chatterbox. I just enjoyed being with Dad, and I was/am a dreamer, so I could just imagine all kinds of things while we fished, in silence. Sometimes I would pretend not to know something, just so I could spend time with Dad to learn it again.
I’ll never forget the gift he gave me on one birthday. I was a single mom to three wonderful children, but with little to no support from my ex. It had been a hard year and I was struggling to pay bills, put food on the table and keep my children in clothes (they certainly grow fast!). I was working two jobs and I was in the Army Reserves. The day of my birthday I was feeling kind of down because I thought my family had forgotten it. Just before I was supposed to pick the kids up from school, there was a knock on my apartment door. It was Dad. “Here, this is for your birthday, don’t tell your mother. And I better not catch you spending it on bills or groceries or I’ll take it back, this is just for you!” He handed me a $20 bill. I still cry every time I think about it, including now. I still have the striped pastel sweater jacket I bought with that $20. I will never let go of that jacket, or that memory.
Dad taught me so much! He taught me to do my best, to be creative, and to “figure things out”. Mostly Dad taught me to be kind, to be generous, and to love. Dad has Alzheimer’s now. He doesn’t remember a lot of our most recent memories. He often asks me where I live now or how the kids are doing in school (they are grown with their own kids). We have great conversations about memories from when I was a little girl. Dad has also taught me to treasure those memories!
I love my parents. They weren’t perfect, but they are my parents, and they both loved me, each in their own way. They both did the best they could for me, for my sisters, and for my children. I couldn’t have made it without them!
Circling back to where I began, the things my parents taught me, those are the things we will lose if we don’t pass them on to our children. There are lots of tips and tricks they used to survive the depression that will disappear when they are gone. I’ve learned some of them, but not all of them, not enough. I’m glad my parents are still alive. I’m glad they are still willing and able to talk about some of these things.
No matter what age you are or what generation you come from, find someone from the PBB or Baby Boomer generation and learn all you can while you still can. It might seem like a waste of time, but it’s not. I know how to “can”, how to sew, how to cook from scratch, how to crochet a blanket. I know how to do minor wiring and other repairs too, bait a hook and clean a fish, change a tire, change the oil in my car (though I’d prefer not to). I know how to ride a horse, without a saddle. I still drive a “standard”. I know a lot of little things, but important things that my parents and grandparents taught me.
Most importantly, I learned the value of life and living from my parents. I hope our younger generations will learn these things, the tips and tricks and the value of life things, before it’s too late. Not just for their sake, but for the sake of their children, and grandchildren and great grandchildren, for the sake of all the generations hopefully yet to come.