Monday, March 7, 2011

The Great Depression and My Mother...

My mother grew up in a large family during the Great Depression and because of that she was very careful about spending money. Some might called frugal, others might call it cheap. She always saved money for a rainy day. We lived modestly, had all the basic necessities and the best food. She never cut corners on food. She might not buy something like asparagus when it was three dollars a pound, but we always had rib eye steaks, fresh killed chickens, lamb chops, the leanest chop meat.

It seems that once you live through an economic depression it changes how you look at things. You learn to make sacrifices and do without things. One thing my mother did was try to conserve electricity, well before the country was talking about “going green” or “global warming.” We always had to shut the lights when leaving a room. When it was 100 degrees in the summer she used a fan, which only blew hot air around. There were nights it was impossible to sleep because of the heat and humidity. I begged and pleaded for air conditioning. She gave in, but only put it on when she thought it was absolutely necessary.

One very hot day I went to work. The mornings were tolerable because the sun hadn’t had a chance to do much damage. I knew that when I got to work it would be cool and comfortable. However, when I left for the day and got on the bus I realized that the air conditioning on the bus wasn’t working and the bus was crowded. I was hot, tired and irritable. It was going to be at least a 45 minute ride to get home. But, I thought, I can deal with this because the air conditioning at home will feel all that much better. I am sweating like a pig as I descend the steps of the bus and walk the two blocks to our house. I run up the steps expecting to open the door to a cold blast of air! I walk in…no air conditioning! What do I find? The kitchen window wide open and my mother stirring not one, but two boiling pots on the stove! It’s 98 degrees! The first words out of my mouth are, “What happened to the air conditioner???” My mother says, “We don’t need it, there is a breeze.” “A BREEZE? You call this a breeze?,” I yelled in disgust. I ranted about my trip home and how I was sure the AC would be on and how I was dripping wet. My mother dropped her spoon and went to turn on the AC. It took hours for the house to cool off. The AC was not the adequate number of BTUs for the area, but if it was put on early enough, it made the room comfortable enough.

Needless to say, after that day, I always came home to find the AC on when we had hot days. Sometimes it pays to complain.

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