Memories Of A Slow & Simple Life
At 60, I find myself turning away from decorating with trends or trying to “keep up with the Jones.”
And going back to my roots.
I’m not really sure how to explain my roots. Not in a decorating sense anyway.
Because we lived very simply. There was no true “decorating.”
Houses were for living in. Cooking in. Cleaning in.
They weren’t for decorating.
Back then we didn’t spend much time indoors. There was no air conditioning, 24 hour cable television, or other such luxuries.
There was hoping for a breeze through the window screens at night when sleep eluded you.
A black and white television that got a few channels if you arced the antennae just right. And TV went to sleep just like people did. Going black till morning.
I think we lived better back then.
There were no terrorists. Unless you counted the mischievous little boys that threw rocks through windows or pulled little girls hair at school.
There was the occasional drunk downtown at the beer joint that sometimes got rowdy and out of control on a Saturday night.
There were no smart phones to take our attention.
The phone was black and heavy. And the dial was hard for little fingers to work.
You did not casually use that phone.
There was no chatting someone up. The operator might listen in.
There were no “gyms” in which to work out.
You worked out in the big garden all summer long to the tune of cicadas. You fed the chickens and gathered the eggs for cooking.
It was a simple and better time.
Children learned to be creative because there were no high tech toys to play with.
You played with sticks in the dirt, climbed trees, collected marbles, and caught crickets.
I never owned a comic book. And books came from the town library.
People were not spoiled back then.
We didn’t even own a car.
We walked into town to the grocery store. On the way home, the road seemed long and never ending with heavy groceries in tow.
But mostly, we ate from the garden. My grandmothers canned all summer long. And we feasted on that food come winter.
The mason jars were all lined up on simple wooden shelves down in the dark cellar. Spiders made webs when it was closed up and quiet.
You had to swipe that sticky, gauzy feel away when you were sent down into the cellar’s depths to fetch a jar of peaches for cobbler.
No one talked about cholesterol levels or chin lifts or botox
I remember hot summer evenings with my grandmothers rocking back and forth on the front porch till close to dark.
I remember running round and round the house for seemingly no reason, trying to catch lightning bugs.
I recall the rooster that heralded wake up time. The chickens that clucked in the hen house.
Sometimes we ate those chickens for Sunday dinner.
I remember watching them running around without their heads. (Where do you think they get the phrase “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” came from?)
I recall the smell of dead chickens when their feathers were plucked. Then finally served up at the table, fried and crispy.
I started out talking about decorating. And ended up with memories from my childhood. I wonder how that happened?
Well, I tend to lose my train of thought these days.
I do decorate a lot more than they did back then.
We never had “matching” furniture sets you picked out at the furniture store. We had odds and ends and made do.
I find myself purging more and more of what I own. And every time I do, I wonder what attracted me to that stuff to begin with.
I want and live a simple life.
I decorate with my quilts, remembering all those stitches it took to create them. There are no replications of my quilts, because I never could follow a pattern.
I like my quilts on display, mistakes and all. Not folded up in a trunk out of sight.
I want what makes sense. Not so much clutter.
I want and have simple curtains to frame the windows. And more and more decorative pillows end up on a shelf in my closet.
I put much more emphasis on need than I do on want.
I cannot bring back the slow hazy lazy days when I grew up. All that is boxed up in my memory.
But I can embrace slow and simple living. And be content.
Hi Brenda, I love this post! I am the same age as you and I have been feeling the same way about cleaning out and just keeping the things I need and have meaning to myself and my husband. Thank you for bringing back some positive memories of my childhood and making me feel so good about being a homemaker!
This is a beautiful post, Brenda… As I read it, I found that I had just about all the same memories, except we did not have a cellar. But my mother canned, and I remember opening up the pantry (which always smelled "mousey") and getting out quart jars of purple-hull peas to go along with our usual Sunday dinner of fried chicken. I love your writing, your pictures … and your blog.
Wonderful post, Brenda. It sure took me back! I am ten plus three years older than you so I definitely remember those simpler days without all the distractions and enticements that we have today. Simpler is better is what I think, too, but it's hard in the midst of the chaotic world we live in to get back to that. You just have to keep at it and train your mind to be focused on other things, more wholesome things, than what you will buy next. Spending time listening to music, meditating, creating art, are all ways to feed your soul, don't cost much money, if any, and don't clutter up the house! We are on the same page, girl!
I too love this post. What I wouldn't give to go back to one of those days. I remember walking about four miles to the store with my grandmother and getting a grapette drink. I so loved having her all to myself. Although I'd lolve to be younger, I'd hate to be growing up in this world today.Thanks for jogging the memories.
Thank you, I love this post, I can visualize that childhood!
It's very similar to mine. Country roads, gardens, good books on hot summer afternoons. Life seemed simple to a child.
Your memories of a sweet, simple and beautiful era warmed my heart. Just today at the market a woman was telling me about her Grandpa's era and I realized that was my era too! We didn't come home until just prior to sunset and yet Mama knew I'd be alright. When I work in my garden I get to be that person again and everything is right with the world once more…
I remember those times also! America will never be that calm again. Wish you would forward your thoughts on the days gone by to the Dallas Morning News at dallasnews.com/lettersfromreaders
so others could enjoy this, too.
I tried to send the link to them. But apparently it isn't a correct email address. It wouldn't go through.
I remember living on a farm at age six. The lady would kill a couple of chickens every week by cutting off their heads and they would run around for a while and then I would help with plucking their feathers. I had nightmares for a while and couldn't eat chicken for years. I do appreciate the gardening etc. My holdover is mending and sewing. Not everyone sews these days.
I'm glad you are having better memories of your childhood. I know there were some bleak times for you, so it is good to know you have recollections of the sweeter moments. Yes, there was a lot that was bad about the old days, but there was much that was good. It's that way with every era. Your childhood sounds more like my mom's childhood in southern Ohio in the 1930s and '40s than it sounds like mine in that region in the 1950s and '60s, in that my mom's big family had to grow a huge garden and preserve food out of necessity. By the time I was born in the mid-'50s, my mom was embracing all of the modern conveniences of the day, such as Campbell's soup and Kool-Aid, and the only thing she grew in the ground was some marigolds by the back door! My grandma still had a huge garden and put up food, however, so we always were getting things from her such as green beans or applesauce. One thing about the past — there were some very, very strong women working hard at home to keep families fed, and we can be so grateful for that.
We were lucky enough to spend our summers out of the city, either in the mountains, camping in a trailer….or in Ireland, on my grandparents' farm. We spent very little time indoors, just if it was pouring out or to sleep. I love the picture you paint of your childhood, you were lucky to grow up in the country.
In this day of constant bad news, I loved this post! At 75, I have those good memories and more. My dishwasher has broken and I've re-discovered how soothing it is to wash and dry dishes, now that I don't have to do it in a hurry. I remember that was when you talked with whoever was washing or drying with you about your day. As Bob Hope always said—"thanks for the memories."
Thanks for this post, Brenda. My husband and I are trying to decide if we want to sell our home and make the move to live in our RV, full time. I think it would be liberating! I, too, remember all of those things and have been years – decades, even – trying to replicate those days. It just isn't happening, with all the "trappings" of this STUFF! I dream of the day when we finally make the break and start LIVING!
Grace & Peace,
Ahhh Brenda,what a great post!!!!
I grew up in a suburb of NYC,so not so country but still simple.
My parents were immigrants, they were born in Glasgow, Scotland,Grandad was killed in a coal mine in Scranton,PA so my tiny grandma supported 5 kids working any way she could….I played outdoors from dawn to dusk I've never been a girly girl,all my childhood friends were boys.
We were Catholic,went to church every sunday,Mom made dinner afterwards.My uncle's wife died,he moved closer to us,they came every Wednesday for spaghetti and meatballs :)I despise clutter,most tchotkes I buy wind up being revoked shortly,I need things clean and dust free!I have friends that I really just want to visit with a hefty bag and fill it!!!!
Hope you continue to feel better and good luck with your new laptop:)
I love this post, I could see it all as you described it. Some of it reminded me of my own childhood. The oldest of nine children, I had a stay at home mother who did not own a dryer and we hung clothes out on the line, and she baked fresh bread every week. I also am working towards a more simpler life and miss how things used to be back in the days of my childhood.
Me to Brenda
Brenda, I love how your writing this took me back to my childhood memories. We lived in a suburb of a big city, but it was in one of the newer houses that were put up after WWII. All brick with only one bathroom and two bedrooms. My sister and I not only shared a room, but shared a bed. I wish our grandchildren could experience life as it was back in that timeframe.
I remember my Mum loved to decorate and buy the latest trends in furniture. She also had Dad paint the interior of our house white because it was the in thing then(must be about 60 years ago) anyway her best friend said 'Connie its so cold and clinical' Mum wasn't deterred she just said 'well I like it' Being a kid I didn't care about the color of the walls but I think some of Mum's like for modern furniture and trends has rubbed off on me. In our 'new' house I want ultra modern furniture and white walls but I won't pay a lot for the furniture, it won't be good stuff that will last forever but then neither will I! At my age I do like comfort though so I will have to have lazyboy chairs in the basement (TV room) My parents were not well off by any means but somehow Mum managed the money very well and still got what she wanted décor wise.
Your very best, Brenda. This will stick with me.
As I get older, the way I view the past changes. Becomes less negative and more positive. And because of that, more common memories seem to be surfacing.
Thank you for sharing your memories and it made me think of mine .Have a great day. Hope you are feeling better
I am. But the medicine seems to be upsetting my stomach now. Only a day or two of the pills to go, thank goodness.
We are close to the same age, but I remember the past differently. Things aren't perfect today, but it's better than the sexism and racism of the past. I wouldn't want to go back!
However, I agree with you about consumerism. Our stuff is consuming us. I get decorating to the extent that there's no reason to live in a hovel–you can choose (or transform) your stuff to a coherent color palette, and have enough places to sit. But I am against "stuff" unless it has some special meaning, and I don't mean that it was on sale. Things that remind me of my parents or grandparents, or places I've been. But not stuff for the sake of itself.
That was there, simmering under the surface, I'm sure. But I lived out in the country, away from people. I didn't hear about those things or see those things until I was much older. No men lived in our house. Just two old women and me.
In some ways those were the good old days, and in same ways I appreciate the modern conveniences. I do think we are becoming disconnected from each other as a society as we have ever more constant contact through electronics.
I grew up in a house with a mother and with grandmothers who decorated, so it's always been a thing for me. It reminds me of my youth, brings back wonderful memories. We lived in the outskirts of the big Apple, so our conveniences were many, but I longed for the simpler rural life, hence I moved to CT. I don't regret it one bit. Funny thing.. my family followed me out here, for which I am grateful.
Lovely post, Brenda.
I enjoy modern conveniences, like computers and internet. I have a dishwasher I've never used, as well as a garbage disposal. I like to wash dishes and stare out the kitchen window. I have an 11 year old car, but I only go out about once per week. I have a house phone that is rarely used. I think we have too many modern conveniences and that children will grow up challenged to deal with the world because of how they live now.
as a quilter I keep thinking you need to turn back to quilting – start with something small – it doesn't have to cost much if you do it by hand – think of the enjoyment you used to get from it
Oh, I would love to quilt again! But a car accident in 1998 meant extensive surgeries on my hands. And I have too much arthritis in them now to quilt. I'm just glad that, before that happened, I had already made a small pile of them.
At age 75, I can remember those days and say the same thing. We were poor but I didn't know it. LOL Thanks for sharing your memories, they bought back many of mine too. Hope you are feeling much better!
I knew we were poor, because I saw relatives that had so much more. But I had my imaginary world and a dictionary that gave me the gift of words and library books when I was old enough to bicycle myself into town. They made my life rich. And I write to this day obviously.
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