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
It is a silent sort of morning, sitting next to the wood stove in my rocker, watching the birds outside my windo...