When my parents divorced in 1970, my grandparents became the natural place to leave me, a six-year old only child, while my mother found work. They lived an hour from Dallas on a lake and much time was spent playing pass-the-child. I didn’t particularly enjoy this exercise and it became increasingly more irritating as I grew older. No matter what age however, I was required to spend my summers, holidays and many a weekend with my grandparents and my grandmother’s two older sisters.
They all came of age during the Great Depression with all the struggles and strife that entailed. Shared clothes, shared beds, nickel picture shows and trolley cars were all part of their childhoods and so was hunger and work and wanting.
Their experiences nurtured a disdain for credit and a belief that the stock market was undependable. They traveled. They rarely ate out. Their home was paid for and they read two newspapers from cover to cover every day. They lived off of Social Security and money that my grandfather made as a carpenter. The interest rates on Certificates of Deposit in the 1970’s provided a comfortable life for them.
While in their care, I wasn’t spoiled. Love meant telling me no and forcing me out of the house to turn off the television and go play. Richard Nixon’s approaching resignation was the only time this edict was reversed. History was occurring and I was told it was a memory I needed. I was required to sit and watch every moment of it until the helicopter doors of Marine-1 closed and Nixon flew away in disgrace.
My grandparents and my aunts are gone now but they are with me, in this current economic crisis more than ever. They didn’t live to see this deep recession but the monetary excess they did witness before they died mortified them on more than one occasion. As their youth becomes our reality and makes my understanding of them grow, I hope the personal quirks they instilled in me will leave me better positioned to weather this storm.
I live in a two-bedroom, one bath home that my grandfather and uncle built behind where they all went to high school. Made of brick in 1936, minutes from downtown and modest in size, it is paid for. As is my well-worn 9-year-old VW Beetle. I travel and enjoy life but I am not overextended or overcharged and don’t live paycheck to paycheck. I am affected thus far by this recession but fortunately have not been consumed by it, not yet anyway. I am lucky and I am blessed and I grow more grateful every day for the love, stability and wisdom I was given in my turbulent youth. Lessons that carry me today both when life expands with prosperity and when life is sparse and contracts. This I believe.
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