Wednesday, March 14, 2012


There was an author on TV promoting her book on inspiring people who lived in destitution, one supporting a family of eleven by selling refuse of the rich.  It jostled my memories to similar experiences, though less challenging, and to similar people who took their seemingly deprived lives and spun a cloth of determined well-being and expected good fortune through their own toil.

My mother and I used to visit on foot a nearby trash site for the purpose of "seeing what people will throw away," in her words.  She occasionally found a useful item, a small stool, a lamp shade, etc., and congratulated herself on finding something in the midst of nothing.  We also walked to cemeteries to visit old friends now gone and conclude how the most luckless of the living can at least hope for more fun and opportunity than our deceased acquaintances.

My Mother at Twenty Something Visiting a Mathews Beach

My Mother and CB Woman, CB Baby Sis, and CB Middle Sis

My grandfather's sister, Great Aunt Maggie, seemed to attract misfortune through none of her own doing.  Her first husband, the father of her two young boys, drowned at sea.  When her second husband died from a heart attack, she survived by visiting relatives on a rotating basis.  She was religious, hardworking, and indefatigable in her optimism.

Aunt Maggie on One of Her Outings

She came to visit with her sewing machine and sewed furiously until everyone in the house had their wardrobe outfitted or repaired.  One visit to our house, she covered our living room sofa and chair; on another, she made my May Day dress and two school dresses.  Imaging having a traveling seamstress in the family today.  The last quote I got for covering a wing chair was in the $900.00 range.  How I miss Aunt Maggie.  She always bought the material on sale, and sewed for free.  And it was all beautiful!  She took me on walks to find wild muscadines which she made into the most wonderful jelly.  She was one who did without.

My grandfather worked in his shop for eight hours a day and then chopped firewood to cook and heat his house; he tended a beautiful garden, which provided canned tomatoes, white and sweet potatoes, onions, apples for applesauce.  Everything they subsisted on in winter.  The hen house provided eggs and a neighbor lady gave Grandfather and his wife, Inez, milk, to churn into butter, in return for eggs.  That butter was divinely delicious on Inez's homemade biscuits.  The fish man came to your door daily in season and weighed out fresh fish for pennies a pound.  I don't recall them spending much at the grocery store.  They did without.

My Grandfather in Later Years with Grandkids, Middle Sis, CBW, and Baby Sis

Happier is the person who does without and works toward the coming of good things, than one who has everything and still needs more.

A Testimony to Doing Without
Grandfather, CBW, Baby Sis and Middle Sis
All Happy


  1. Your writing is just beautiful. It always touches my heart in one way or another.
    I am becoming more and more convinced if we all returned to a simpler way of life. No, I'm not saying going back in time, but returning to simpler lived lives.

  2. This brought back so many memories of my grandparents, their gardens, their clotheslines, wringer washers, ice boxes — the ice truck delivering big blocks of ice, carried in tongs, and we kids running after the truck to get shards of broken ice to suck (what a treat!) and fruit trees in the yard with much canning, preserving, jam-and-jelly-making going on in the kitchen with its wood stove.
    I could chop wood with the best of them (okay, perhaps the worst of them) and prime a pump and haul water, and those were never the things that made me unhappy!
    But your Aunt Maggie wins the prize for ingenuity and determination. Fabulous!

  3. they all certainly had a different work ethic back then didn't least they had one, not like the younger ones today. It's hard to find...and yes, it would be marvelous to have a traveling seamstress in the family!

  4. WHOA! wasn't your Mom just beautiful!! I'm not patting myself on the back or anything (OK I guess I am) but I am a hard worker. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I leaned from the best, my Mom was a workhorse, she raised 5 kids by herself after my Dad died (much to young) and worked outside the home. She grew and canned her own vegetables. She was our Timex, took a lickin and kept on ticking...gosh I miss her soooo much...I hope someday my own kids look at me like that...m

  5. My parents worked hard because they grew up during the depression and thats how things were back then ... their work ethic was passed down to my sister and I .. they worked hard and did without so we could have the best life they could give us ... clearly this ethic was also handed down in your family too ..

  6. Love these pictures and the people in them.

  7. Thank you for joining me in my reverie. I feel their lives still burning in these pictures, even though time has put distance between us. It feels good to see them smile. Even the children are no longer and have distanced themselves from those moments. But we can all go back in this way. Hopefully, my grandchildren will know these times and these people in reading this.

  8. W.On Waverly--Please consider writing a book, or at least an article...your writing is so seeing those photos, too.

  9. Always an inspiration in here. And that feeling of having your arm around us....