Friday, November 21, 2014

Making Do and Giving Thanks

By Sarah Reichert

One of my earliest memories is of waiting in a dark and crowded hall while my mother picked out ‘groceries’ from piles of white and black generic boxes.  I didn’t understand at the time that the blocks of Velveeta-like cheese, powdered milk, and bags of rice were part of assistance programs that kept us from going hungry when the insecurity of the uranium mine had left us teetering on the edge of destitution.

My father is, and always has been, a hard worker.  He took whatever job he could to support us, but in the unstable energy economy of 1980’s Wyoming there was always a fear behind my parent’s eyes.  Their amazing resilience makes me tearful with pride now, as a parent myself. 

Because, back then, I never knew we lacked for anything. 

We were always fed.  We were always clothed.  We had a roof over our heads and wild game in the freezer.  We made do.  When lay offs hit, they squeezed the most out of what we had and made do.  When dad went back to college for a second degree in teaching, we lived in a small house in Laramie and made do.  When Christmas came around and three kids rushed to the living room, there was always something there to be thankful for.

I didn’t have cable as a kid; I had books.  I didn’t have a TV in my room; I had the library less than two blocks away.  It didn’t matter that we couldn’t afford vacations to far off places because I could go there in my mind.  Pages were like my wings, rocketing me towards new and fantastic horizons.  My parents couldn’t give me designer clothes or name brand shoes.  They gave me Jean M. Auel, Jack London, L.M. Montgomery, Louis L’Amour, Piers Anthony, and Jane Austen.  They gave me hours and days of uninterrupted reading time.  I still remember mom peeking in on me, sprawled out in bed, pouring over a book, completely lost to the world around me, asking if I needed anything. 

Looking back now, and knowing what I do about how much it costs to raise a child (nonetheless three), I really couldn’t have asked for more.

We made more than just meals from small staples.  We made worlds out of our love and support of one another.  My parents gave us the belief in where our minds could take us.  And we made do.

Thank you for visiting this blog and please, this holiday season, remember the hardworking families of our community that still struggle.


Dean K Miller said...

Wonderful sentiments, Sarah. A life well lived isn't always the one with the most stuff. Congrat to your parents for their steadfast love and hard work. You are lucky to have them.

Patricia Stoltey said...

This is my story, too, Sarah, except I was a farm kid in Illinois and my dad was a tenant farmer at the time. With our own livestock and garden, and with the rest of the farm community just like us, I had no idea we weren't rich. The big scares came with things like tornadoes ripping through fields, torrential rains during harvest time, and hordes of army worms making their way from field to field, eating everything in their path. And all that time, I was happy with my books.

Anonymous said...

This was very much like us too. We had the b&w generic products, went on very few vacations (except to visit family) and made do a lot. But I don't ever remember feeling deprived of anything, despite many lean years. I don't think I would have had it any other way. Thanks for the beautiful post.

M. K. Theodoratus said...

Yeah, it's time to dump your change into the SA kettles.

I grew up in much the same kind of boat as the rest of you, with my parents doing the best with the resources at hand.

Have never been able to figure out all the fuss about the desirability of designer labels, a closet full of shoes ... and other stuff. Even as a kid.

Then, when I started working as a domestic, I quickly saw that having money didn't make you happy. In a way, my employers were more miserable than the poorest in the barrio.

Shirley Drew said...

Wonderful post, Sarah. It IS important to remember that we are fortunate...and that others are not always as fortunate. And then DO something about it. Thanks for the links.

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