Thursday, February 23, 2006

The "Good Old Days"

A few days ago I was buying some fabric at Wal-mart and the cashier was an older man. He made a joke as he was ringing up my fabric by saying, "so you are a sew and sew". I laughed and he asked if I did a lot of sewing. I told him I did and used to make all my children's clothes. He then shared with me that when he went off to college in 1945 he took with him 31 shirts all made by his mother. I was amazed, thinking how making men's shirts is just not much fun and very detailed. No one was behind me in line so he told me about how his mother made lots of his sisters dresses out of sugar sacks and feed sacks. Then he said, "you know the good old days really weren't all that good" and he meant it. He said that life was hard, food was short, his mother went to bed exhausted from all the hard work with no modern conveniences and communication was nothing like it is now. People had to worry for days or weeks waiting for news of loved ones. His 31 shirts represented his mothers worn fingers. He said it would be better if she could have bought them and wasn't so worn to the bone by all the hard work.
I thought about what he said a lot this week. I work hard at doing things the old fashioned way and he had me questioning why. The more I thought about it, the more I realized its not the way we do things now that has me wanting to step back in time but the way modern society acts. I want things the old fashioned way in some attempt to recapture the way people used to behave. With some sort of decorum and by an unwritten code of ethics that seems so much kinder than how people are today. Its not always necessary to say to someone just how you feel. Sometimes its kinder to just let some things slip when they are hurtful or unkind. We are too bold, we don't blush. There are so few mysteries to life any more.
I have thought about the life of some of my ancestors. In the picture is my great great great Grandmother. Born in 1838 in Ireland. Came to Boston and worked as a maid. My great great great Grandfather saw her working when he was in Boston after sailing from Nova Scotia on his clipper ship. He was a man in love with the sea but also fell in love with her and her red hair. Joseph Webb married her and they had three children. The oldest girl in the picture is my great great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth. Margaret and Joseph had a wonderful love but after the baby was born, Joseph was lost at sea. Joseph had no radio to call for help or a cell phone to use. There was no coast guard helicopters to search for his ship. Margaret had to wait and wait and wait, hoping he would return. She waited for years. She had to raise her children alone, no government help. No social security. She had no family to help her except for her in laws. The good old days were not all that good for her.
I think technology is a blessing, just we have changed so much in the last 100 years in the way we treat one another, but we don't know how to recapture the good we have lost. We don't know how to make children respect their elders or play like they used to. We don't know how to be patient or have friends and family be a real part of our daily lives. We are lonely for family when we are all scattered. Women are so busy trying to do it all and then not even sure why they are doing it. People quit things when they get a little hard. We wish they didn't. I guess its not the soap making, or the spinning wool that I am really after, its more the way people acted when everyone was doing that sort of thing. Little House on the Prairie is good not because they live so old fashioned, but because they lived so kind to one another. I think that sums it up


Blogger Sandra said...

Patty, you've hit the nail right on the head! Life was physically demanding but there was still time for manners and kindness. Today there seems to be only time to rush around and "get ahead" no matter what. That's why I like quilts, because they bring to mind comfort, family togetherness and security :-) I love my modern technologies, the washing machine, the computer, the phone, the car, the supermarket, modern medicine etc, but I also like good old fashioned values and standards :-)

Thursday, February 23, 2006  
Blogger Alena said...

Patty, thank you for this post, I totally agree with the man from wall-mart, the old good days were really not all that good, it only seems to us when looking back and picking all those nice things that seem to be absent in our world... I think there were also rude, horrible people in that time, the same as nowdays - there are really nice and polite people and then there are all those primitives that are actually not even worth our contempt... the great thing nowdays is that we have the choice to make the things the old way, to sew our clothes and make the lunch from scratch and when we are fed up or too tired we always can go to a shop and buy factory made clothes, we can admire and keep the home made sweaters as a special treasure made by or for someone we love... but actually it is not a necessity, we have always the choice...
my grandmother lived her childhood years during the first republic - nowdays seen by many people as a kind of paradise with ladies and gentlemen with such a fine manners, driving big cars, living in immense villas... my grandmother was sent by her parents at the age of 10 to serve at the big farm... just imagine such a small kid away from house, coming home twice a month for one day... my grandgrand parents did not have a choice though, they were having three children and with the crisis and my greatgrandad losing his job they were not able to make the ends meet... my grandmohter was a very clever girl - wanting to study - she could not even finish the primary school...
Me, as a child I could still witness the impact her difficult childhood had on her relationship with her mohter... I think she never was able to forgive her, I wish she would be able to, but I can imagine how difficult it must be for her... So, we are really blessed that we may choose nowdays our way of living...
I loved your posts, Melissa is a really beautiful young woman... Regards for her!

Friday, February 24, 2006  
Blogger HomesteadHerbs said...

How succintly you've written our quest! A good work ethic, servant attitude (not as in slavery though), and respect and manners towards others versus a 'they owe me' and selfish-absorbed attitude.

Is it an American issue only? I have found that other cultures also value what you've written, but as the 'American way' is broadcast to other cultures, it infiltrates and affects them.

Friday, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Pecan Hill Matron said...


Friday, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Laura said...

You said it beautifully, thank you!

Friday, February 24, 2006  
Blogger anner said...


Friday, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Katie said...

Thank you for a wonderful post - as usual your writing is superb.

Friday, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Sunny said...

Patty, how wonderful that you have that photo as a link to your roots.

31 Shirts! Sounds a bit excessive. That would be enough to last the man a lifetime! With some left over! However, I suppose they may have had washday just once a month, so, needed enough clean ones to get through the month. When you go back, ask him more.

Friday, February 24, 2006  

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