My parents were among the generation of children born at the tail end of the Great Depression. Their parents had learned about thrift during the years prior to their arrival, and having experienced an economy collapse, they continued to live conservatively. My mother wore the same socks for years: my grandmother would mend the holes in the toes. My father’s mother usually bought fresh loaves of bread from a bakery, however, every once in a while, she would give into the pleas of her children. She would break down and buy a loaf of Wonder. After it was eaten, she saved the bag and my father would have to use it as his lunch bag until it practically disintegrated. Yes, their parents practiced parsimony, and because my parents viewed this lifestyle as suffocating, when they became adults, they rebelled.
My parents married in the early 1960s. At that time, they had two choices: become hippies and live off of grilled cheese, peyote, and the Grateful Dead or become practical, upstanding young Americans. They chose the latter. However, they did not view practical as binding themselves to a stingy lifestyle. They would practice frugality, but they wanted to enjoy the modern lifestyle that was being marketed as American. They didn’t see the point of saving every bag, every old piece of clothing, and every old jar. If they needed something, well, Uncle Bills was just up the street– the wonderful premodern superstore that seemed to carry exactly what one always needed! They were tainted by the commercial ads on television, and they grew to believe that the most important component of a truly modern life was convenience.
By the time I came around in 1970, they were eons away from the prudent ways of their parents. They threw away bags, glass, aluminum, and plastic. They used disposable diapers and disposable milk bottles. They drove giant clunker cars that used leaded gas. My mother found aerosol cans to be a modern marvel. She could clean anything with the press of a delightful spray. Oh, and as far as her beauty regimen, she probably used a can of AquaNet a week.
Yes, my parents were Americans: red-blooded, cigarette smoking, economy-driving Americans. They were part of the generation of people who thought, “Wow, look what a state-of-the-art world we live in!” The days of canning your own jellies were gone.
The reason I mention any of this is because all of that disposable luxury came with a price. The ozone layer is in terrible shape and the greenhouse gas emissions have changed the climate of the entire planet. The Cleveland, Ohio of 1970 is not the Cleveland, Ohio of 2012. When I was a child, it was not uncommon for it to snow on Halloween. This year, today was the first day that it has snowed all season! We have been hovering in the forties and fifties for the last month and a half, and as much as I like not having to kick the furnace up to high or worry about hats and mittens, I miss the winters of yore.
Thankfully, this supposed last day of the world and the real first day of winter have brought us winter-like conditions. It is snowing in Northeast Ohio. As I cozily sit in front of my computer, I know that it is blustery outside, and the ground is starting to cover. For this weather, I am thankful because my children are going to get their wish: a white Christmas.