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Me & The Weight Of The World

Me in Oakland with Raggedy Ann

Rob has tagged me for a meme.  (Thank you, Rob.)  I’m not a big fan of memes, though.  So I was thinking about ways to honor his recognition and interest in finding out some things about me, and I thought I’d delve into how I came find who I am and what I care about.

With the economy continuing on its downward path, and climate change now looking to be somewhat irreversible, there is a lot to be down about.  Sometimes reflection helps remind us who we are, and why….  Here goes!

(Note:  as always, mouse over the pictures for more information.)

Me Licking the Beater on My First Birthday

I was born in a lower-middle class family.  My mother was a first grade teacher when she was pregnant with me.  During those days (the early 70s) she was lucky to have a job, and she literally hid her pregnancy as long as she could so she wouldn’t lose her job.  But finally she could no longer hide her pregnancy and became unemployed.  

My father was in the Peace Corps in the 60s, and searched for a job where he could support his family but still do good for the world.  He settled into a government job, working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  He stayed there until retirement – long after the HUD scandals of the 80s, and after he came to the realization that as a government worker he was working a lot more with red tape than actually helping people.  This all made his life quite frustrating for him, which carried into our family life.

Shivering young me.  We still have this towel, now used as a “dog blanket”!

We lived in Oakland, CA, where a drought in the 70s forced us to take infrequent baths, all four of us bathing consecutively to reuse the water (taking turns being the last one, as that was always the coldest!).  The bath water was then used to flush the toilet. 

I can remember having a friend of the family over for dinner once.  He was staying in a hotel in San Francisco, and was surprised to hear that there was a drought.  He said he’d taken a 20 minute shower that day, not knowing about the drought.  We were all utterly horrified… and a wee bit jealous at the same time.  (Sometimes I think of this today, when I see others being frivolous with precious resources as I continue to work on reducing my impact.)

My sister (2 years younger) and I holding a doll my grandmother made for me for Christmas. It was my favorite doll for a long time.

While we were rationing water, we were also rationing gas due to the energy crises (and here).  I remember sitting in lines at the gas station for hours, my mom fretting that the gas station would run out of gas before we got to the front of the line.  We had to plan very carefully, because we could only buy on odd-numbered days and gas became very expensive for our family.

Me as a Brownie, Marching in a Community Parade

We almost missed the parade because we ran out of gas on the way there.  I was very sad that I didn’t get a chance to make a sign : ( .

But just so you don’t get totally depressed, we did have a good time during those days! I just discovered this photo of my parents, which I think is hilarious:

My 70s parents.  The hair, the clothes, the Michelob...

And then it all changed in the 80s.  We moved from the Bay Area to Seattle, to be closer to my grandparents.  I believe you’ve met this guy:

My grandfather at his 50th wedding anniversary, wearing a gift from my father (golden shoes for their gold anniversary, I believe).  That’s his Cadillac in the background, btw.

We moved to a house with a pool (that we never used), 

Our Seattle Pool

and we did a lot of traveling.  Life was good in the 80s… For us, anyway…

My grandfather went to Hawaii for a business trip, and he took us all with him. (From left to right: my grandmother, mom, me, my sister, and my grandfather.)

My life change considerably on two separate trips my family took.  The first was a train ride to the middle of Mexico, in Baranca del Cobre (“Copper Canyon”):

Fleeting Views From the Train: People Living in Old Box Cars Deep Within The Canyon

Girls Younger Than I, Selling Baskets

The second was a trip around the US in a tiny borrowed trailer we slept in.  Not only did we get to all sorts of tourist spots, like historic Williamsburg (that’s my sister in the guillotine, below):

Lori In Williamsburg Guillotine

…But we also stayed in trailer parks, rode public transportation through Washington DC, and drove through miles and miles of farmland.  I’d never seen severe poverty in the US, massive industrial agriculture, nor the many historic battlegrounds where we fought Native Americans, British, and each other.  (Interestingly, I have no pictures of those things that made the biggest impression!)

We also did crazy things occasionally, like learn how to build an igloo (we stayed one night inside – amazingly easy and warm!).

I’m in black on the left (in a “different“ phase of my life), standing next to my sister.

I think there’s a lot I can learn from my own history, and my own experiences, as we look forward toward an uncertain future.  I’m seeing cycles of economy, I’m realizing I’ve learned some useful skills to adapt to changing circumstances.  And somehow looking back at history grounds me within a wider scope of reality.

Things are not perfect right now.  Not by a long shot.  But we can – and must – work hard.  We have new and useful technologies that we can bring together with the skills we’ve had for decades!  We can adapt, but we can also improve as we move forward….

Now, that was only the first half of my life.  You’ll get the second half whenever I get another meme (no encouragement here!!).  Let me dissuade you with this lovely, lovely, 80s photo:

High School In The 80s

And now I turn it over to you:  is there anything you can remember from your past that would be useful in the current state of our world?

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10 comments to Me & The Weight Of The World

  • Nice Do ChickyBabe!!! Forgive me I have wanted to say that to someone for a long time and I saw your pic from the 80′s. Of course I am a decade or so ahead of you but still… I can’t say there is much from my past except that I was a stoner-planet-tree hugger even then.

  • Hi Melinda, I enjoyed your post today, it reminds me of my own childhood days. I also grew up inthe 70s and 80s, and have hilarious photos of my mum with a huge afro and dad with longish hair and a big mo! Happy days!!! I think growing up in a happy, nuturing close family gives you a great start to your life ( I know alot of people are not so fortunate) and informs the type of person you grow to be. My parents were always “can do’ type people, helping out in things my sisters and I were involved in, and I find myself getting involved in my families activites in a similar way. I think I was given a great gift growing up in my family, I felt loved and cherished and encouraged to do my best and see the best in people always, and this has made me feel that I can do whatever I set my mind to! I guess I am a ‘glass half full’ kind of person and feel that no problem is insurmountable. I think this helps in these times of constant gloom and doom, to try and keep a positve attitude and not feel that one persons efforts are futile or insignifigant. I’m sure that all of us like minded people across the globe making other people more aware and bringing change into our own lives and our broader communities, are starting to make a difference. There will always be people who think you’re crazy to go to so much trouble to grow your own food,or reduce your carbon footprint, or whatever; but I think there are more and more people trying to help the earth and the humans that inhabit it!

    Anyway, I can relate to the 80s school photo, I have an album of truly embarrassing photos (I call it my ugly duckling phase, and I have to say it has been a very long phase!!) Hahaha!
    Keep your chin up Melinda, you are good at inspiring others I think, and that will make a difference I’m sure!
    Cheers Julie H.

  • Jen

    Your photos remind me of my life (I was born in 1971). I think we had that same pink bathroom growing up!

    All I can think of is that I remember a simpler time, and I long to get back to a place when we are less frenetic and consumeristic. That time is coming.

  • What great stories and I love the picture of your parents. :)

  • My husband and I were just talking about this. We were discussing the way that our grandparents live the way they do (frugal, thrifty, conservationists, etc..) because they witnessed the great depression, and we were wondering to ourselves if this time will change these people forever.

    I am very sorry for those that are struggling. I am very grateful for all that I have and continue to have. But I do hope this is not wasted.

    I hope people look at what we are going through and learn to Hug the Monster (see my blog from today) and learn. I think that ultimately our bank accounts, our planet, and our attitudes may all be a lot better off if we can.

  • Awe! I LOVE the pictures(:

    I’ve always been a little house on the prairie fan. I also loved hearing about my grandma’s childhood which happened to be during the depression. I think both those things have helped me to know that the life I live is privelidged growing up (even though we were not well off at all).

    I find Willo’s comment above very interesting. I have two children, 16 and 9. I also wonder what it will be like for them going from having things like computers to doing a lot more manual labor for everyday things. I hope it’s gradual(: We talk a lot about how we will probably live together well into their adult hoods and that we plan on buying a house and property that will allow multiple dwellings on it so we can be a sort of ‘tribe’. That is a bit in the future for us though(3 yrs). I think I will keep touching base with them about it by asking them specifically what they are feeling and how it’s affecting them and their friends.


  • SusanB

    Wow, we had a lot of crazy family vacations that had a major impact on the way I saw the world. When I was in fifth grade, we went with a bunch of train enthusists on a trip to Mexico. The train enthusists goal was to ride as many rail lines as possible with their (threadbare) private train car before they all became Amtrak (okay I date myself). We rode from Chicago across the American west to Tampico and then Mexico City usually as the last car on the train. The summer after eighth grade (not the summer of love, but close to it), my dad drove us from Chicago to Fairbanks Alaska in a 10 year old Ford Falcon where he sold the car for $75. Fairbanks was a boomtown as the pipeline was being built. We came back by seaplane, ferry, transcontinental rail and rental car. My brother caught a salmon, my other brother was “adopted” by some Japanese geologists, and I hung out with (seemingly) real live hippies. Many many years later my dad told me that he had been thinking about moving to Alaska. Then there was the trip down the very flooded Ohio River in the Delta Queen, with all of us crammed into one very small “stateroom.”

  • I heart the first picture. It makes my day. The doll looks suspiciously like a Raggedy Ann/Andy set my mother made me when I was born. I just had her make a set for my daughter’s first birthday.

    I enjoy reading about your experiences! I had quite a few myself. Some of the most interesting involved living in Maine during ice storms and Guam during typhoons that resulted in no power or water for months on end. I think it has made me a self sufficient person, and I’m okay with that.

  • Rob, Oh boy – thank you so much. : ) I hope that was 7 things (or so)?

    Jules, Lovely comment – thank you. “I felt loved and cherished and encouraged to do my best and see the best in people always, and this has made me feel that I can do whatever I set my mind to!” Beautiful!

    Jen, LOL lovely decor we had, eh? I agree, we’re lacking some necessary simplicity.

    Jen R., Thank you.

    Willo, Have you read this post? I know you are relatively new to the blog and may not have seen it. It might be interesting to you in this context. I’m forever grateful to have my grandfather still living – constant insight into life in the Great Depression…. and a life transformed by the Great Depression. I love your post about Hugging the Monster – exactly!

    michelle ellis, I love that your family is so close – good work mom!! We have been privileged – I think that is why the economic downturn that began more than a year ago is just now really hitting home for a lot of people. Cheers to you, too!

    SusanB, Thank you for sharing your stories! Interesting how trips can become so powerful, isn’t it?!

    the rachface, I know, I secretly heart that picture too. : ) I loved that Raggedy Ann, and carried it with me until it was very raggedy. I believe my grandmother made it – it could very well have been the same pattern your mother used!

  • I want to experience making an igloo too. What a cool family adventure!

    I believe my mom prepared me well for the world I am living in. I don’t think she intentionally did that- she just lived in a way that she thought made the most sense. She always grew fruits and vegetables, we kept chickens, she cooked wholesome (hippie) foods, and preserved food. I never thought I would be doing the same things yet I am now doing all the things she did when I was a kid and it makes as much sense as it ever did ecologically and economically.

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