Monday, April 23, 2012

Watering my Roots

As a short preface, I am a 28 year old from southeast TN that's lived here all my life, and my maternal grandparents are from Mississippi. The south/country are deeply rooted in me and I didn't even realize to what extent until I became an adult with a family of my own. 

Every summer when school let out, that meant I was going to Mamaw's everyday while my parents were at work. Those summers weren't all that eventful, yet I have more good memories of my childhood from those times than almost any other. I would get to Mamaw and Papaw's house early in the morning and sit with them at the kitchen table while Papaw finished up his coffee and we all talked about what we were going to do that day. Most days I would play with the girl that lived next door to them, but there were many days it was just the three of us. It seems like everyday we did something productive, but it never felt like work, just good time spent together. There were many days spent picking bucket upon bucket of berries at the local berry farm, going to the produce stands in town to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables, and taking the afternoons to wash our goods and prepare them for freezing or taking to the neighbors to share and usually get a good basket of something we wanted in exchange. Of course I would get bored sometimes being a little kid doing this stuff, but that isn't the prevalent feeling I have when thinking back on it. My memory is of hazy afternoons snapping beans and shucking cor while my grandparents told me stories about their own upbringing. Being part of the first generation to be raised with a computer in the house as a normal thing, I was blown away hearing that they used outhouses and didn't have air conditioning, and that they got their chicken and eggs from the back yard. What was this world they were speaking of? My grandmother once showed me a hand fan from the 40s or 50s that she had been handed as she walked into church one Sunday...I had to ask her why she had a tongue depressor with a piece of cardboard attached to it. Just as I looked at her like she was an alien for having a manual fan, she looked at me likewise for even asking what it was. That day I learned how to make a paper fan and it was glorious. Seriously, I felt like I had learned a useful skill that didn't cost a thing...something I could actually use!

As a child, I viewed these anecdotes from their youth as stories from some other dimension that would never possibly be practical to me besides learning family history. After all, I was living in the world of going on a quick trip to the store if there was anything at all that we needed, going to the next town over to get my school clothes, turning on the TV if I was bored, turning down the air if I was hot, and throwing my socks in the dryer on cold mornings to heat them up while I was getting ready for school. Want some ice? Push the lever on the door. Dishes piled up in the kitchen? No problem, just load the dishwasher.  Too tired to cook? One pound, one pan, and supper was done. The more I listened to their stories, the more I realized that the world I was growing up in was nothing like it was when they were young. I also knew that technology and creature comforts would only become even more convenient and commonplace as I aged. What surprised me, was just how much technology would advance before I was even old enough to drink. To think that my children could grow up having no idea how to do anything for themselves due to over-reliance of technology broke my heart. With the ushering in of adulthood, I started to look at the world more realistically and realized that there was a very real possibility that something may go wrong someday and I would be utterly unprepared to survive without my creature comforts. This is when I started to listen to my grandparents and start asking questions. 

Not trying be a conspiracy theorist, but between the volatile political and economic times, the water shortage we may face in our lifetime, and the quick waning of fossil fuels, there may be any number of reasons that it may become unrealistic to just run to the store every time we need something. So I've begun a personal journey, to try in small ways to become more environmentally responsible, not be as wasteful, repurpose items, and learn to repair some things, rather than just throw them out because it quit working. Phew! It's tough breaking yourself from being spoiled about having everything you want, the moment you want it. Then I started talking with my husband about the idea of trying to be more self-sustaining. At this moment it isn't feasible financially to start a chicken coop and buy solar panels, but we're going to attempt to plant a small garden with the staples- zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, maybe broccoli, beans, and a separate herb garden. It makes me feel good just getting to seize a moment where I rig something and fix it, so I can only imagine the pride I would feel at growing my own vegetables to feed my family. Also, I need to learn to can. Then there's the fact that I would get to hand that tradition down to my own kids, of shelling peas, snapping beans, and shucking corn on lazy afternoons while we enjoy each other's company, rather than obsessing over our Facebook, or whether so and so texted us back. In rose tinted glasses, I imagine teaching them how to cook things from scratch, concoct a home remedy for bug bites and rashes, rather than running straight for the doctor and getting an expensive ointment. I guess the point is, the south has a very rich culture of being self-reliant, hard working, using ingenuity to create and fix things, and making others feel welcome and respected. As with any place, there are always those who operate on the contrary, but we all have a heritage of using common sense and having manners. It may be old fashioned, but maybe we Millenials could use a dose of reaching back to our roots learning how to do things the old way, and teach our kiddos as we do it. It would for one, teach us to appreciate what we have, and two teach us valuable skills that we may need to use someday if worse comes to worse. If the world remains intact, well, then at least we've learned things about our heritage that can be passed down to later generations, so that the knowledge doesn't get lost forever in a sea of smartphones. 

**side note, I have nothing against technology or smartphones and in fact wish I had one. of course I indulge in having my comfort zone, but it sure is nice to think that I could survive without it and not be the stupid girl that always dies in the first five minutes of the movies because she has no sense. just sayin'.**