While I was visiting my 85 year old aunt, she was married to my mothers brother, we drifted into conversation about “the old days.” Not the “good old days,” because they were hard times, troubling times. Times when people struggled to put food on their tables and clothes on their backs. Times when some watched as war broke out in countries they once called home.
Most of my people were born and raised on farms in the mid-west. For generations going back to before the founding of this country, they planted their gardens, plowed their fields, and took care of their livestock. They worked hard from sun up to sun down. And not just the adults, but the children too. That’s just the way things were back then. They all understood that everyone in the family had to do their part, and it never entered their minds that it should be any other way. Everybody worked.
I had to smile when Aunt Dody talked about their warm water baths. They would haul water from the well and fill up a tub that was located in the yard “out a ways from the house.” “The sun would just warm that water right up.” she said. And they would take turns “washing up.”
Most families “back then” had a grandma or other elderly relative living with them. They would help out around the house and with the cooking as long as they were able. Then, they were cared for by all the other members of the family until they passed on. Families were close. The children learned a lot by having their older relations in the same house, and most times in the same bedroom. Most farm houses only had two rooms, one for cooking and eating and the other room was for sleeping. Conversation, or visiting as my aunt would say, took place around the kitchen table.
My aunt and I talked about the clothes we had growing up, and how our mothers sewed everything. My mother would sew five dresses at the beginning of the school year for myself and my younger sister. I’ve long since forgotten when I finally got a “store bought dress.” After school we would carefully hang them up in the closet. We took good care of those dresses because they had to last.
Aunt Dody said her mother made her three dresses for school. Now, to make their clothes meant a trip to the feed store. It was the same for my mother, along with all the other girls in their one room school house. My mothers family, and my aunts, lived on land around the town of Welch, Oklahoma. Yes, look that one up on your maps.
The sacks that the feed for the horses came in were made from material of various colors and prints. This material would be put to good use when made into dresses, shirts, aprons, and anything else that might be needed. The sacks would be stacked to the roof in the feed store in town, and the girls would have the clerk moving the sacks around until they found the colors and prints they wanted. Everyone in the family took turns when a sack was emptied and brought in to be sown. But sometimes the print that finally made its way to the house, would not be the one they had their eye on when it was their turn.
“I really had my eye on this one pattern. But when it was empty and ready to be made into something, it was grandma’s turn. Will my grandma of course wanted me to have it, you know how grandma’s are,” said Aunt Dody, But her momma pulled her aside and whispered to her, “Now Dody, you let your grandma have that one and you can have the next one.”
The next piece of material that came in was “a really pretty blue with little flowers just sprinkled all over it. I’d had my eye on that other one, and I guess I didn’t notice this one in that load of feed sacks.” She leaned over to me as we each took a sip of our sweet ice tea and said, “We really used a lot of feed for them horses of ours.”
Her momma made “this beautiful dress with a fishtail skirt, you know where it’s longer in the back,” Aunt Dody said. But, when her mother finished the dress, which needed buttons for the front of the top, her momma didn’t have any buttons. “Well my aunt was over to the house one Sunday, and I was showing her my new dress that momma had made up for me.” said Aunt Dody. “And she said she had some pearl buttons that she had cut off an old dress. And she thought they would be perfect for mine,” she continued. “Now I really thought I was something with those pearl buttons on my new dress.”
As we continued to talk about how much we have now, compared to then, we both paused—remembering times past. These are stories that should never die. We need to record the stories our parents, grandparents, or any older person that is willing to share, so that we may never forget. What is it that we must never forget? That the people who built this country, who gave birth to a nation of proud people willing to defined her, who were willing to do whatever it takes to grow her into a mighty nation, they were all members of our families. These are all reasons to never forget.
Past generations of this countries citizens built the foundation for freedom that we all rest on today. Our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, storytellers everywhere, are very much like our young men and women today. From the time our nation was conceived there has been war. And with war comes those who willingly stand up to defend this way of life we enjoy, sometimes without considering the price that may have to be paid.
Today it’s our sons and daughters, our siblings, our spouses, and our friends, who stand up to fight the battles to secure a safe life for us. And when they return home from war, do we ask ourselves what we can do for them? Yes, there are those all across this country who reach out to help our returning service members, especilly the wounded. But the need is great, and the response from our civilian population is insufficient.
Ask yourself, “How would I respond if it were my child, my brother or sister, my spouse or best friend returning home from war to an ungrateful nation?” Would you try and make sure the next warrior who stepped back onto American soil was not forgotten, but truly appreciated and cared for? I sincerely hope so.
I guess where I’m going with this is to ask all American citizens to wakeup, give back, remember from whence we came. Think about it, the way to honor your ancestors, to honor your family and friends today, and to honor and preserve this way of life for the generations to come, is by honoring the warriors and their families who are fighting todays wars.
Take a step. Make it happen. Say, “Thank You.”