As I celebrated Mothers Day a few weeks ago, I started thinking of the women who influenced my upbringing. I had the privilege of growing up very close to my grandmother and great grandmothers. Dorothy, my maternal great-grandmother, was born in 1915 and she died when I was 15. Frances, my paternal great-grandmother, was born in 1918 and she died when I was 21. Dolores, my maternal grandmother, was born in 1936 and she died shortly after my 30th birthday; at one point my mother, my sister, and I lived with her.
These women taught me everything from dressing in the appropriate garments, to growing and canning my own food, to sewing and mending my own clothes. Some of the things they taught me are considered out of date or old school. This has actually earned me the nicknames RetroModern Mandee and Grandma, but when I think about the knowledge they gave me I honestly believe that I’m better for it.
Too bad I don’t always use that knowledge.
After my grandmother’s death in 2011, I was given my her sewing box. I had one, but it is nothing compared to hers. And I must admit, I’ve run into some sewing-related situations that showed how unprepared my sewing box was. But hers had no problem meeting and besting them. I don’t know how she even anticipated these situations; they never even crossed my mind. Yet, there was her sewing box, ready and waiting to take on the world.
I cannot remember my grandmother ever being unprepared for anything. I’m sure she must have been at some point, nobody’s perfect. But, I’m 100% sure she was more prepared than me. I wonder how much money I waste outsourcing stuff or buying things at the last minute that I could save on if I prepared ahead of time. Some of the sewing projects my grandmother’s sewing box handled would have required me to outsource had I not had her box, so I saved money.
I have similar memories of my great-grandmothers. They were both widowed early in life, one in 1959 and one in 1979, and never remarried. Yet I can’t think of very many instances where they were unprepared for life. I don’t remember money issues. They both owned their own homes and they were paid for. Also, they had newer model cars, took trips, and they spoiled us kids with gifts. When I was ready to go to college, I came out of undergrad completely debt free because the mothers in my life had prepared and saved.
It makes me wonder what other parts of life my grandmother and great grandmothers were prepared for that I am not. I know a few, such as retirement and savings, but what about my kitchen? My medicine cabinet? Regular, general, everyday things. Granted I wasn’t an adult growing up (obviously), so some things may have gone over my head, but I can say without a doubt that they did not have the same issues, be it monetary, health, or career, that my generation has.
I’m on the cusp of Generation X and Millennials, though I identify more with Gen X and claim that generation. Gen Xers, especially the younger ones, are sicker and in more debt than any of the generations preceding them. We have more technology and better medicine, but I honestly think we’re not doing better. I recently read somewhere that we’re the first generation that is holistically worse off than our predecessors. Why? Is it because we’ve abandoned old school ways for more modern habits, such as big houses, fancy cars, and convenience food that isn’t always healthy? That approach doesn’t seem to quite be working for us.
I want to sit down and think about the things I might need to change to reflect a more old school approach. How can I change some of these modern ways to save money and live healthier? How can my generation change the our direction? Can we change the direction we’re heading in? I guess that remains to be seen. What I can do is find a way to do my part to facilitate change, and that change starts with the lessons the mothers in my life taught me.
Thank goodness for mothers.