Monday, January 31, 2011
My mother was very organized. Among other things she was a list-maker. She kept separate lists for “To Do,” and “To Buy” on a chalkboard handy for quickly writing down any shortfalls in the household inventory she encountered so that when it came time to shop, she knew precisely what we needed.
Her “To Do” list was endless. As one task was accomplished and crossed off, it seemed as though at least three more were added. She was a gardener. She baked bread. She was the pre-Betty Friedan “traditional wife, mother and “homemaker.” And she detested the term “housewife,” proclaiming she married a man, not a house.
She enjoyed her role as homemaker –at least until Ms. Friedan pointed out the inherent disadvantages of it—and things like “sexist,” and “feminism” and “equal rights” crept their way into (raised) consciousness vocabularies. That is not to say Ms. Friedan’s ideas were not valuable to mother. Once she realized she was being treated “unequally” by society, she became an activist. At that, however, cracks began to appear in the façade of domestic tranquility especially when she decided not only to join, but to become the local president of The League of Women Voters. My father to his dying day, called it The Plague of Women Voters. Does that tell you something?
At the heart of it all mother was a conservationist. With uncanny accuracy, way back in the early 1950’s she predicted boldly that someday, people would shop, not for what they needed, but rather as entertainment. At the time, her projections were the butt of jokes. Today, were she alive, I believe she would experience some satisfaction that her prediction was spot on. But I know, too, that her sorrow at our consumption-based society, today, would be great. She was also ahead of her time as she spoke of manufacturers engaging in “planned obsolescence.” Back then, the term was not widely understood.
My father and mother took pride in their low, two-digit membership numbers in REI. They joined when nobody knew what REI was. By comparison, MM's and my membership number is above six digits. My parents were mountain climbers, having climbed most of the significant and challenging peaks in the Pacific Northwest. They were even featured in the Seattle Times for several of their feats.
At seven years of age, I was taught to shoulder a pack and hike between them on the Hoh River trail and the Duckabush River. This was long before Californians discovered the Pacific Northwest. My Duckabush hike was a total of seven miles if I recall correctly—somewhat arduous for a little tyke. Throughout my childhood, we were always enjoying the out-of-doors in this bountiful nature’s paradise, as we alternated between the razor clams at the ocean or a mountain lake filled with rainbow trout, or even staying at home on the waterfront at Dyes Inlet in Puget Sound. But…I digress.
As I said, mother was a conservationist. Have any of you heard the word “conservation” mentioned in the halls of Congress, lately? Or uttered from the White House? It’s almost as though the English language has completely eliminated the word from the lexicon. C-O-N-S-E-R-V-A-T-I-O-N. Say it with me:
With her lists, Mother paid attention to the small details of personal activism, living by example. In quest of the most economical use of gasoline, back in the early 1950’s my mother PLANNED her bi-weekly shopping route by mapping out the anticipated trip to town. We didn’t make frivolous trips to the store. So, the trip had to count.
Before we went “shopping” we had mother's list of all the things we NEEDED (as opposed to “wanted”), and we had a kind of roadmap that nominated the stores we would visit in the order of our travel, both going and coming home. If we had to stop at Sears, for example, to pick up our catalog order, it was sandwiched with the dental appointment in the morning (and it was on the same side of the highway), my music lessons at Mrs. McKey's place, and the final stop at TBM (Ted, Bill, and Mack’s) grocery on the way home, (it was last because mother didn’t want meat to warm in a hot car, vegetables to wilt, etc.. Mother's list was the locus point of the whole process, and god forbid if we somehow left the list at home. (That was probably the only reason for returning home: to retrieve a forgotten list!) Once home from Bremerton, the final stop in Silverdale would be the gas station to re-fill the 1941 Chrysler’s tank in readiness for the next trip.
If, when we arrived back home, we discovered we had forgotten something, we would simply go without until the next shopping trip. Asking my father to pick it up on the way home from his job at the shipyard was a strict no-no. After all, he carpooled with four other men and he would not suffer the embarrassment of their having to wait while he gathered forgotten grocery items for his wife.
Compare the process I have just described above with what most do today: run to the store. Lists? Who needs a list?! Shop till you drop. Map? Who cares! Running here, running there, running, running everywhere based on single purpose trips!
Out here, JOTOLR, MM and I "measure" our trips carefully and cram as much into one trip as possible. Shopping is not recreation for us. It is a necessary evil. And yes, I have a list each time we to to town, of all the items we NEED. It's geographically arranged, just like mother's was, and we try our best to conserve.