Will memory help today’s children grow up cautious about money and credit, thereby avoiding the perils of economic ruin?
I remember Mother’s face growing sad as she read a newspaper with a picture of a man who had jumped from a high window on Wall Street, his arms and legs spread helplessly in mid-air. She said he lost all his money and would die when he hit the ground. In another picture, nicely dressed people were in a line at a soup kitchen; banks had failed and they had no money to buy food. Mom said we didn’t have to worry, for we grew our own food. I was only three years old, but I did worry ... about the man falling from the window. I put the paper where for days I could look at him, thinking as long as I could see him in mid-air, he was not dead. (I didn’t say I was smart at three.)
Depression was in full force two years later when I was with Daddy in a garden by the road, and I was about to learn a lesson for a lifetime. A shiny car was coming, so I stepped behind some plants to hide my bare feet and old dress. Fancy-dressed people greeted daddy and he waved back at them. As they disappeared around the bend, I said, “I wish we are rich like them.”
Dad’s hoe thumped the ground and his finger was shaking in my face while a strict look was all over his. “You listen to me, little girl, and don’t you ever forget it,” he bellowed. “They work in the mines where I do and rent a company house. They likely owe for that car and maybe the clothes on their back. The mines shut down, so they are visiting country relatives to have something to eat until the mines start up again.” (Daddy never talked bad about people!)
Bending over, he picked up a handful of dirt and let it filter slowly through his fingers, saying, “As long as you own a piece of land and are smart enough to grow a garden, you can eat. Keep a woodland growing for wildlife and your own needs; you can afford a house of some kind, and you will never be cold or hungry.”
At that moment, his love for the earth became mine, too. I never forgot the lessons of the Great Depression, so in my advancing years (old age), when I plant seeds in my garden, I remember Daddy. And I wish for today’s children an early and long memory.