Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Great Depression 1.5

Avram's Grandma Mim is famous in the family circle. She grew up during the Great Depression, and it's in her very bones to not waste anything. This is why every time we visit she'll pull out a bag of clothing that she got from her Methodist church's thrift store that she thought we could maybe use. Once Avram got a shirt for his 26th birthday, with a little old grandma lady on the front, with her arms raised to the sky, and a quip that said something to the effect of, "As long you keep your arms in the sky your chest won't sag," (to which she had attached a note saying, in all seriousness, that Avram could wear this shirt now that he was getting older to keep him young feeling.) Mim also gave his Mom a few visits ago a part of a quilt top - that had been pieced together using peach and black floral strethy polyester fabric; another thrift store special (from another survivor of the Great Depression, no doubt). (Although to be fair she has also found great maternity clothes for me through this - it can't always just be pure entertainment).

Besides not being able to let go of any potentially useful clothing, Mim also can't stand to see food go to waste. Thus she has been known to crumble up stale butterscotch brownies into a bottle of flat orange soda and drink this.

Most meals spent at Mim's house, she dines on various and sundry leftovers from old meals, often providing disparate flavor matches, although none have ever topped the orange soda incident.

Avram and I have talked about what kind of atmosphere could give rise to such compulsive thrifty behavior, and what sort of time growing up in the Great Depression would have been.

I know that we are nowhere near a "great" depression, and also that even if all the same events replicated themselves, we still wouldn't go back to wearing gunnysack dresses. After all, my flour comes in paper bags, and I don't think any amount of ingenuity could make a paper sack dress that I would wear in public. Still, I am starting to get a feel for the continuous low level anxiety that could shape long term behaviors.

Avram's department voted to, because of the economic times, not open any new teaching positions for next year. Which means that we went from having funding for next year 100% to not being exactly sure whether we will or not. Avram's applied for another fellowship, which we haven't heard back from yet, and there are two teaching positions currently open - for a pool of four people, all of whom Avram is close with, so he's competing against his friends. Thus a staple of our daily prayers is asking for funding to work out next year.

Plus then this week surprisingly my Student loans went into repayment, and so now we're paying off my trip to Egypt (which I haven't taken yet in my Saga story.) (Although I should point out here we actually had room in our budget yet, so we're still doing fine financially - I just dislike financial surprises, unless they involve a check for me).

Then Avram's brother is waiting to hear back from graduate schools. So we've been praying for him. After all, we're worried that as schools have less funding, they'll let less people in.

Then Avram's dad was laid off from his job this week. So now we pray for them as well.

And my Mom needs a summer job. It's a good thing there is no limit to people who need help that we can pray for - becuase I'm starting to feel pretty needy.

Not that there aren't still good possibilities for all of our family and ourselves. Just that now the clouds on the horizen always seem to be dark and ominous. And I hate foreboding futures. Avram has a saying, "It's called a recession until you lose your job. Then it becomes a depression." The more people we know looking for work/out of a job/in unstable financial work situations, the more I feel that we're in a depression, and not just a recession.

As far as repaying my student loans now, I was thinking about how I wish I could have that money to buy things now, but then I reminded myself that that's the lame part of paying of debt - you already consumed (or have, at least) whatever it is you're paying for. So I've decided that I just need to pull out my Egypt memorabilia, and look at all the pictures and tell myself how much fun I'm having, or was having four and a half years ago, at least. Although I am glad I went to Egypt - as we'll see soon it plays an important role in how I married Avram. I just wish I hadn't bought so many clothes while I was there.

I am not so stressed about finances that I've been driven to wear any free clothing that comes our way, nor have I begun combining random leftovers for a taste treat sensation, but I think a few more years of always wondering/worrying/praying over our own financial future as well as for those around us could induce some odd lifelong habits in myself as well.

Let's just all pray that Oklahoma doesn't blow away in dust storms (especially since my sister Camilla is driving there to live for the next three months as I write), and that all of the horrible events, specifically financial uncertainties, preceeding the Second Coming will be pushed forward 80-90 years to when I'll be dead, and then I'll be very appreciative. Thank you. Oh, and if any of you find any more grandma shirts - you can throw them away on my behalf. As long as we can do this, we'll know that we haven't truly fallen prey to the Second Great Depression.


  1. The shirt from Grandma. Too funny. Once your grandmother Stoutner gave Soren a bargain shirt--one that had a McDonald's insignia which she had picked up at some thrift store. Soren said, "I think Grandma's losing her touch."

  2. If you need anyone else to pray for you could add us to the list.

    We talked about going from "have" to "have not." I haven't reached the level of neediness of our grandparent's generation either, and I wonder what would push me to that level. Right now I'm having a hard time going from butter to margarine, and boneless, skinless chicken breast to whole chicken. Adam's peanut butter to generic. Poor me, I know.

  3. You threw that little bit about Egypt in there and now I know your secret. (that you did actually go and didn't jump into a quick marriage.) What? That wasn't a secret. Oh.

    (and hope everyone and everything turns out okay!)

  4. Hey! you can pray for me too.

    I have a job untill the end of may. Then. I don't know what will happen. It's ALMOST worse than being with out a job now, since at this point, it's too soon to apply for anything. So all I can do is worry, and I can't really take any action to FIX it. I'be been opperating under the "it will all work out because it allways has" plan. It helps keep the panic at bay. Sometimes.

  5. Haha, I hadn't heard these Mim stories yet. I've only been to stay at her house once, and it was hardly any time at all. I hope someday I will have stories of my own. She's a hoot! Our family would be much more boring without her, that's for sure.

  6. also, my grandpa was a young child during the Depression. He was the youngest of 9 children, most of them boys. They were very poor farmers, Dust Bowl, etc.

    To this day, my grandpa will eat anything, and he eats his meals by practically inhaling them. He learned as a child that he couldn't be picky, and if he didn't eat fast, he wouldn't eat at all!

  7. Good luck to you with the fellowship and everything. We wish you the best! (And I like reading your saga. Can't wait until we're in Egypt.)