Fantastic Friday: Just Like Grandma

I’m a day late posting this. The idea for this blog post has been bouncing around in my head for over a week, but like many of you, I spent so much time in front of the computer for work/communication that I just needed a break!

Living through these times has been making me think often of my grandmother. She lived through the Great Depression and WWII, so she had some experience with times of shortages and stress.

One of the memories that has stayed with me happened during Christmas one year. She told me that there were years when she and her siblings were lucky to have an orange for Christmas, and they would savor it and make it last. I thought that was absurd. An orange was a thing your parents forced you to eat before you could eat something tasty like a cookie or candy. What kind of a present was that? It sounded more like getting coal in your stocking than getting a present!

She also kept food in her refrigerator that was beyond the expiration date. She would smell cheese and milk before serving it, which prompted us to look at the date (why would you have to smell cheese or milk you had just bought?) But I grew up in a time of plenty and have been lucky enough not to have to understand shortages. If something passed its expiration date by more than a day or two, there was no need to keep it.

The worst thing I probably had to live through was a blizzard, which forced us to be cut off from the grocery store for a few days, and a power outage after a hurricane that forced us to live out of a cooler for two weeks.

But now, when going out can be dangerous in theory, and when supplies at stores are no longer guaranteed, I am having to think carefully about what I am using and why. I made homemade applesauce because some apples were reaching that point of less-than-ideal crispness that in my past life would have prompted me to compost them. The applesauce was delicious.

I saved plastic containers because they would make a good place for my kids to mix paint. I made my own iced tea. These things were ridiculously easy, and it was only the constant rush of life “before” that prompted me to toss the apples, recycle the containers, and purchase iced tea.

I tackled several sewing-mending projects that I had put off due to my busy schedule. I repaired a hole in my favorite pair of fluffy socks.

Not only am I making better use of my things, but my daughter is as well. Knowing that we don’t visit the store every few days, she has started looking after her things more carefully. She has a renewed interest in repairing her toys, and we have been creating lots of crafts. She even has plans to start her own YouTube channel.

I wonder now how my grandmother felt when there were times of abundance—during Thanksgiving or Christmas, when seconds and thirds were passed around the table, when candy and snacks were aplenty. I wonder if her living through a depression and a time of war rations was the reason (other than being Italian ) she always, always wanted to feed us, why she always had snacks in her bag.

I’m reminded of the novel Life of Pi, which I am reading with my distance-learning high schoolers, in which Pi as an adult and survivor of a shipwreck, is sure to keep his home well-stocked with food.

There was always something welcoming about my grandmother, something about her giving spirit, that made me feel like I was living in a different era when I was with her. I could never quite place my finger on it, on her protectiveness, on her desire to provide. But perhaps now I understand her in a way I never could have anticipated. Perhaps in her mind, when she was offering us candy or feeding us, she was seeing all the things we never had to know and was thankful that she could help us live in abundance.

Of course these strange times have negatives, as a few minutes watching or reading any news makes us painfully aware. But there are underlying positives as well. Like Transcendentalists, we are forced now to live more intentionally. Many of us are forced to slow down, to think deliberately about communication and to appreciate the contact we miss.

But I can say that no matter what happens after this, I am permanently changed by these times. I will no longer throw something away simply because it has passed an expiration date by a day or two. I will no longer take things for granted, and I will always wonder if there is a way to fix something rather than throw it away.

In short, I’ll be living much more like my grandmother.

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posing with a Nick Maley print

Here I am, posing with my “quarantine look” and holding the print I purchased in St. Maarten, signed by Nick Maley himself.

While we’re talking about these strange times, I wanted to promote an online event I’ll be attending tomorrow, Sunday, May 3. It’s a fundraiser put on by Nick Maley, aka “That Yoda Guy,” and a bunch of famous people who were involved in Star Wars, The Dark Crystal, Mandalorian, and lots more.

When I met him Maley on a vacation in St. Maarten, I felt something special about him. He is one of those people you meet just a few times in life—very encouraging, calm, compassionate. He is known as “that Yoda Guy,” and is largely responsible for designing Yoda. He had a teacher that once told him he would not succeed in the arts, and after he did succeed, he decided to encourage others, especially youth, that they can follow their star.

The museum he runs in St. Maarten is rated among the island’s top attractions and includes movie memorabilia and many other displays. It was the highlight of my trip (yes, a trip that included tropical drinks and snorkeling!) and what I remember most about the island. And although he worked in film, he is independent and certainly marching to the beat of his own drum.

But with all the shut-downs, the museum and its foundation is left without its income—the tourists who visit the island. His goal is to survive the estimated ten months it will take to get tourists back.

Anyway, this fundraiser is the first of many. It’s an online convention with many guest creatives who have worked in film and other creative endeavors. They’re putting on an 8-hour convention that costs only $6 to join remotely. I can’t wait to attend. If you’d like a ticket, you can find one at http://netdwellers.com/mz/inet_events/starnet_pay.html.

Hopefully the money raised through these events will help Maley keep afloat until things turn back to normal. Sometimes it takes just one person to turn a life around, and based on the comments to his posts, Nick Maley has touched so many already. I imagine if he’s able to keep his museum open, he’ll be able to touch many more.

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