My childhood gave me some interesting lessons. My paternal grandparents were both very big parts of mine and my siblings lives. With our father dying when we were children, they were always present in the lives of my brother, sister and I…all the way up until we lost them. They were amazingly caring and wonderful people.
They also were an interesting dichotomy. See, my grandparents were both Depression Era children. And when I say they lived through The Great Depression, I mean it. My grandfather had been accepted at a very prestigious private college. His father was one of the wealthiest businessmen in our hometown. When the depression hit, my great grandfather lost everything. And I do mean everything. My grandfather…he had to withdraw from the college he had dreamed of going to. He went to another college on an ROTC scholarship, worked three jobs while in college and eventually went into the Army Air Corps (now the US Air Force). He was overseas all through World War II and following the war, returned to our hometown and became a successful businessman…but he had to claw and scratch his way to success. I do believe he is where I got my work ethic and I am so grateful for that.
Like so many people who lived through the Depression, Granddad was very frugal with his money. He would buy the best, but he wouldn’t. The whole dichotomy of his childhood played out in his life. My grandparents had this large, beautiful home…which they built right after WWII and never left. Not having much money at the time they built it, my grandfather paid for most of the work through barter services. Someone supplied the brick, he gave them free services at equal cost. Someone painted the house for him, he bartered for that. There was, and still is to some degree, a lot of business done this way in my home town. Aside from old, family antiques, the furnishings of their house were meager. They never replaced things until they were broken beyond repair. It was a comfortable life for them but nothing extravagant.
Another example would by their lake cabin. Granddaddy loved to fish…and I do mean LOVE!!! Again…he went for the best but he didn’t. He bought three lots to build his cabin on so he could have a peninsula all to himself. He paid to have an amazing dock built. When he bought his boat, he bought one of the top of the line boats…for that model year. We had picnic tables and hammocks and all of these cute little nooks on the land. The house itself though was very small. I would be surprised if the whole cabin was more than 1000 square feet. Again, furniture never got replaced unless it was beyond repair. After his initial purchase of his boat, he never bought another one. He must have used that boat for 25 years plus. I have missed that lake cabin every year since it had to be sold. We had some amazing family memories there.
My grandparents always tried to keep it simple and honestly, the lessons they taught me in the way they lived their lives are still with me today. Yes, I do like the frills and nice treats every now and then…but in my RL, my home is pretty simple compared to most. Its a small home that can be easily managed. The antiques are all family pieces I inherited and the rest is either hand me downs from my sister or furniture I bought over 15 years ago. The only places I splurged were my TV and stereo because I am a music freak. I don’t even have cable at home. Every car I have owned, I have driven until it was beyond repair and never owned a brand new car until I was 40.
The lessons were key following my divorce as I had nothing except a bedroom set and a beat up Honda Accord to my name when I left my marriage. But due to the way my grandparents raised, I knew I would survive and recover. I was ok with living very simply for the several years following my divorce. Losing everything at that time reminded me what was important.
There is a lot to be said for keeping it simple. It leaves more time and space for the things that are truly important to us…like our friends and family. Make more time for the memories with the people will love. Those sustain us if we lose it all. ♥
See it on Flickr!