Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chin Up! You Ain't Got it So Bad!

It's 'a comin'. Another year. Even though I wrote this a while ago it suits for contemplation as the number 2012 rolls into 2013 with all that might bring for us. 2012 was, for me, a very good year. I have faith, hope, love and excitement about 2013.

I hope you do, too! This is a little long, but perhaps you find some value in it.

I was so excited to open my sister’s email. After months of painstaking research, she’d finally found the name of the ship our grandfather had traveled on from Sweden almost ninety years ago. The whole family was behind her as she researched names, dates and places that our ancestors had attached themselves to. She was even able to post pictures that she’d requested from yet other relatives. It was astounding to see the family resemblance in those old black and white photos where folks must have been told "now don't smile!" This set me to wondering more about the lives of the family members that went before us. What I found has been a boon to me as I struggle, along with so many others, in these wacky times. Think unemployment, insane gunmen, political scandals ( that go viral – yeesh!), budget deficits – you name it.

It puts me in mind of all the things my ancestors didn’t have; insurance of any kind, appliances, electricity (my maternal grandparents didn’t have electricity until the 1950’s) and countless other modern conveniences that we think we need or deserve. And yet they survived and even thrived. That same maternal grandmother bore six live children and lost twins at five months gestation. With the exception of my youngest aunt, they were all born at home. How on earth did these people make it? I have to laugh when I compare the years in which we’ve lived. My husband’s dad grew up in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City in the 1930’s and lived through the Great Depression. Good times were having a dollar for gas (if you even had a car) and a friend who knew how to make bathtub gin. Truthfully, we are sometimes dwarfed by the old folks shadow!

Now don’t get me wrong, I love modern life. I mean, after all, I’m writing about all this on a computer, a contraption my grandparents wouldn’t have had a clue could even exist. I also think it’s wonderful that I can get in touch with my sisters across the country or my friend across town simply by touching a button on my cell phone and saying, “Hello.” But harkening back to the brave souls who lived their lives trusting God and each other that things would work out makes me realize my own frustrations are nothing, like gnats on a banana or something. So here’s what I’ve challeneng myselt and resolved to do.

Keep my chin up. Nobody likes seeing a down-in-the-dumps face all the time. Where I can give cheer, I will. Where I can cut down on consumption, I will. Where I can pass up   a bargain, I … okay, okay that’s going a bit far. But at every turn where I start to feel weak and whiney, I’ll think of my dad’s Mom, who came over from Sweden quite young on a boat to a country where she couldn’t speak the language. She had no money and probably only one good dress. I’ll think of my mom’s Mom, who spent countless hours in her sweltering rural Minnesota farm kitchen every summer canning vegetables from her garden so her family would have food all winter. Both of these women woke up every morning with a list of chores as long as my granddaughter’s licorice whip, and I’ll be darned if I’ll complain. After all, I can plop my dishes into my dishwasher and drive off to the library to pick up a good book that I’ll have time to read because a machine is taking care of the grease on my glass casserole dish.

We can all look at those who have gone before us and gain from them a sense of what makes life good. It’s taking care of your own and giving them as good as you got. My husband is semi-retired and I work three part time jobs so we can get the bills paid every month. This would be nothing to my grandparents and great grandparent's generation. Part of the good life is the hardness of it. Good grief, how could we rise to the challenge if there were none? We give our children so much when we share with them our struggle stories, the ones that let them know you can get through hard times and come up okay on the other side. And in time they'll add tales of their own to help forge a unique family heritage.

My Mom died last year and going through her things with my five sisters was sad, but also eye opening. The pictures of herself, Dad, her nine children, and seventeen grandchildren told the story of her life. Looking through them brought memories galore including the good, bad and ugly things that we all shared. Mom’s life was daunting at times, but she hung in there. As her oldest daughter, can I do less? And I thank my sister, who is 16 years younger than me, for caring enough to delve into our ancestral archives to find little golden bits of our past. She'll be in the family story book for sure. 

Image: digitalart                                                                        Free Digital Photos


  1. How true! I can still see the lives both my grandmothers had and I still marvel that they survived. I, too, will try to keep my chin up. Which one, I'm not sure!

  2. LOL, Cindy - Keep your best chin up! I know you can do it. You crack me up.