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Tue August 23, 2011
Depression Skills... commentary from Joan Carris
By Joan Carris
Beaufort, NC –
As we are all trying to adjust to the current depression, I am remembering what I heard about the long depression after the 1929 stock market crash. High school graduates of that era scrambled to find jobs, and grew up fast, like their older siblings who'd been tempered in the fire of WWI. They became tough, savvy, ultra-conservative adults. As couples, they had only small families, because children were luxury items. I was one of those children, and we all had parents who ingrained in us the lessons they'd so painfully learned.
The main lesson was thrift: Waste Not, Want Not. We saved everything. Garbage went into the compost pile for our huge gardens, tended lovingly by my father, who'd grown up on a Kentucky farm. As a little kid, I believed that we supplied most of Toledo with tomatoes, corn, beans, strawberries, and cantaloupe. I was in charge of reclaiming tinfoil, washing and drying it carefully before adding it to the foil collection under the sink. Mother wiped off wax paper, dried it, and re-used it. Old newspapers insulated our doghouse in winter, lined basement shelves, or were tightly rolled to be later burned in the fireplace.
I could have knitted hundreds of afghans from the balls of string in our house. When I blithely tossed a rubber band into the wastebasket one day, my father said, "Joan, retrieve that, please." Knowing we had already squirreled away at least a million rubber bands, I replied, "But we don't need it!"
Solemnly he said, "You never know what you will need." Well, dangit, that is true probably the motto of all packrats.
All these many years later, guess what? Compost is a hot topic! I have a tiny stainless steel compost pail in my kitchen, storing up treasure for our two steaming outdoor bins. I still save rubber bands, although now that I have two large balls made of rubber bands, I have begun throwing some away. It is not easy to do.
I refuse to save string. I buy a fresh ball of whatever twine we need, and stifle the pang of guilt as I pay for it. I do save Christmas wrapping paper, the beautiful holiday boxes and bags, holiday cards, and the gift tags from presents. Those tags are a point of family honor. One of our daughters has a gift tag dating back to the 90s. Another has one dated 1985. As for the handsome holiday cards, I cut off the fronts of the best ones and glue them onto the plain, boring bags that are cheaper. By the way, I regard this an art form.
Many in my generation consider themselves "marked" by the 20th century Depression, even though we weren't alive then. But, hey, think how "green" we were before it was fashionable! We have always understood the writer's adage: Less is More. And we aren't embarrassed to say that we love our compost.