Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gifts from grandparents

While my husband and I moan about the current economy, I can’t help but think that my grandparents would thrive in it. They grew up during the Depression. My grandmother was born into a home with a dirt floor. Perhaps as a result when she became an adult, she had the cleanest house I’d ever seen. Forget the ten second rule, I would eat off of her floor anytime (especially if it were one of her homemade rolls). Even her basement was neat and dust-free.

My grandparents worked hard; they saved their money and ended up with a nice nest egg, a home that was paid for and some land. But they never forgot where they came from nor did they complain about it. It was just life.

For my grandparents, wasting anything was bad, but wasting food? Now that was a sin. My grandmother taught me to save my leftover vegetables (even a tablespoon or two) to put in the freezer to make homemade vegetable soup. I did this a lot when I first lived on my own, and, boy, did that soup taste good when I was broke at the end of the month.

She also had a garden, canned her own food and made wonderful jelly out of the blackberries that grew wild at the edge of the woods. Caning food is definitely a lost art. A few years ago, I bought some jars in an attempt to turn cucumbers into pickles but quit after I read the directions.

Grandmama and her mother, whom we called Mommie, also found creative uses for everything. When we would visit Mommy in the nursing home, she’d make us save the little paper cups that held her pills. She’d demonstrate a different use for them each week, such as unfolding it to make a flower or using it as a container or a cup. Once my grandmother decorated a batch with glitter and attached them to a Styrofoam ball, which she hung over the dining room on special occasions.

Grandmama also kept up with the price of everything. I used to think that was why she watched Price is Right so often, but later I realized old ladies, and apparently some of the young ones too, really liked Bob Barker. She knew the price of lettuce at every store; how I do not know.

Now to say she was cheap would be an insult. At Christmas, she and my grandfather always gave the best gifts, including my very first $100 bill, a tradition they continued each year. They just weren’t big on spending money on themselves, my dad explained. After Grandmama passed away, we found an old fur hat. Mom told me my grandmama had bought it to match a coat she had with a fur collar but felt guilty about spending so much money on it that she tried to take it back to the store. Mom keeps that hat hanging on her hatrack today.

My grandmother would also insist on paying anywhere you went, not just for food but for gas and whatever else you might need. I remember seeing her and my Aunt Kate throwing money back and forth at each other in an effort to pay for some such item and then finally sneaking the money into each other’s purses when that failed.

I think it’s a classy person who can be frugal but not cheap. Sometimes we are the opposite--wasting money when we should be saving and hoarding money when we should be giving. I guess that’s why God gave us grandparents—to teach us the difference.


Angela McRae said...

Very, very beautifully told tale! (They don't make 'em like that much anymore, do they?)

Meredith Leigh Knight said...

Thank you, Angela. No they don't. I forgot to mention how she'd always stop to pick a penny up off the ground. I doubt many people do that anymore.