Parenthood Part 5: Expecting Little, Delighting in More
Submitted by admin on Sun, 12/25/2011 – 18:02
In the deep of the Great Depression a four-year-old Hartley (my dad) padded from his chilly bedroom on Christmas morning to get toasty by the coal stove. Santa left one present for each child and Hartley was exuberant over a glossy ten-pin set: a wooden ball and ten painted bowling pins. “We about wore out the rug knocking ‘em down over and over. I thought I had the world by the tail.”
Two or three years later he told Santa he wished for some Banty chickens, a small brood of good backyard layers. He could hardly close his eyes in hopes that Santa remembered to pack hens and a rooster. At about four in the morning he sprang up in bed as a cock crowed into the cold clear night. Those chickens and subsequent generations provide years of breakfast eggs and dumpling soups for the Anderson table. He once gave a hen some duck eggs to sit on and when they hatched those tiny ducklings followed in a line like her own. “She liked to’ve gone crazy when those little guys made a beeline into the pond.”
When Gaye was a girl during the war, her father and his brothers had a grocery store in Tremonton. She would help him by sitting on the floor to count and recount ration cards that people saved for staples like sugar and butter. A pair of nylon stockings was more than a woman could hope for, but what everyone wanted most was for their husbands, sons, and brothers to come home from the War. Some did but were never the same, and others came home draped in flags.
I wonder what this country will be like when all those who remember harder times have passed. Can we still feel in our guts how fortunate we are when we come to believe that iPods, internet and all our gadgets are necessities? My grandmother made her own soap, baked bread every morning, and spent an entire day each week on laundry.
I am grateful for parents born in the depression, who had to work hard for everything they had. Even at 77 years old my mom still goes into the office. They taught us to earn our own way and to never take Christmas abundance for granted. December was always slow in our business and I don’t remember a year when mom didn’t give us a heads up, “Things are really tight right now so Santa can’t bring everything you want.” It was not an act; they always struggled, yet my parents never failed to pull it off.
One particularly rough year when I was about seven I wanted a dollhouse but worried that it was out of reach. When Santa brought me the most well-appointed wooden house I had ever seen I told my brother, “Santa just has to be real because mom and dad couldn’t buy this.” I did not know that Bruce had made it for me in shop class, replete with custom wood furniture and wallpaper. I fell asleep mid-morning with my head resting on the bottom floor’s plush carpets. Thirty years later that dollhouse is still well loved and used.
My heart overflows this Christmas Day for so much more than I need: a good husband by my side, a cozy house and gorgeous food. I make my living in satisfying work, free from the bone-tiring labor required after the Depression took my grandparents’ farm. How can I ever thank my parents enough for teaching me how to earn, and the subsequent pleasure of spending it on the ones I love? They taught us to expect little and then delighted us with a just a little more.