Friday, January 30, 2009

Becoming my grandmother

This is not a fair look at Grandma Augerson, because she's just posing next to a towel that happens to be hung up.  People didn't take pictures then of people doing ordinary things, like working in the kitchen or digging in the yard.  All I have is mental pictures of her and me sending the dripping wash through the wringer and coming out two dimensional on the other side.  I suspect that between that and air-drying, more ironing was needed then.  

By now you may wonder why I'm off on this tangent.  Of course you've probably noticed that The Great Depression is now in vogue, and perhaps I'm only being trendy.  Nonetheless, my email world includes references to climate change, recession/depression, peak oil and any number of dire and believable probabilities.  Panic is easy, but it doesn't seem like an element I want in my life, so the answer seems to lie in practicing bits of life as though we only had a scrap of the giant grid that we use now.  Hanging clothes and stringing beans are a lot more fun than political action, though I try to do my bit for that too.  And more and more, when I live life in a more down-to-earth way, Grandma becomes a part of it.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It's sunny and cold.  If I hung up the wash my fingers would freeze, and the clothes would still be shivering when the sun went down at five something.  So it was between the lines in the basement or the dryer.  The lines won.  

Maybe it's the sun, but I had fun hanging everything up, putting the matching towels together, smoothing out the table cloth.  And I reflected on the inescapable thought that the more I follow my environmentalist leadings, the more I begin to act like my grandmother.  

Grandma Augerson didn't mean to be a Depression-era housewife.  When she married my grandfather, she probably hoped that this tall, handsome man who drove his horses fast and came from a solid Swedish family would be a ticket out of the poverty of her childhood.  She probably didn't know that she was exchanging one creative, restless man (her father) for another (my grandfather).  She had her share of disappointments.

By the time we lived next door to her and Grandpa, on ten acres of oats and scrub near Sylmar, California, she'd become a plain, hard-working woman, and I liked her that way.  When he wasn't driving the Helms Bakery truck, Grandpa raised chickens and turkeys and a lot of boysenberries; I got to watch when he chopped off the chickens' heads, and Grandma and I plucked the chickens and fried them up.  I picked boysenberries, and sometimes Grandma and I made pie.  On wash day, I loved to help Grandma put the clothes through the wringer and then hang them up in the desert air that was still clean and breezy.  Sometimes the first things dried before we got the last ones hung up. 

I figure, then, that I have an edge over people like my own children, who watched me throw the clothes in the dryer and open cans of soup.  I loved my grandmother, so everything I made from scratch under her watchful but uncritical eye was entertainment, not drudgery.  So far, it's easy to be an environmentalist.