Friday, March 06, 2009


My mother used to talk about past times when the future was uncertain and money was short. Even though I gave her little attention at the time, not yet having discovered the joys of story-gathering, I still remember her basic themes. ”Times were hard but we were resourceful. People helped each other out.” She told the stories with passion, with pride, with a fond remembrance. That’s what I recall.
Though I have given Mom’s stories little thought, they now come back to me, riding the wave of current interest in hope as a relevant companion during economic chaos and shrinkage. It’s not the difficult content that comes to me, though I do recall the one and only occasion when she used her best culinary skill to prepare a tasty batch of chicken feet and taught me how to squeeze the meat out of the toes.
”Chicken feet were a treat for us,” she told me. ”We didn’t have much to eat.”
Now that I am remembering, I also recall the tiny elegant watch on a slim silver band that lasted her more than fifty years. “I knitted a very fancy sweater for a man who had been jilted by his fiancĂ©,” she told me. ”He had bought this watch for her and now he had no use for it. It was very expensive, completely out of my range. I couldn’t buy it from him, but he was happy to trade it to me for a hand-knit sweater.”
I had no context in which to understand these stories when first she told them to me. She probably thought I had not heard. They may have been vaguely interesting, but certainly had no relevance. We had money for watches and there was no reason why a person with unlimited access to chicken legs and thighs would bother with chicken’s feet.
I think she’d be pleased to know that the themes came back to me, followed by the content, just when I needed evidence to support the theory that hope abides when wealth is threatened.

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