Updated: Jan 3
My fondest childhood memories were at my grandparent’s home. I don’t remember seeing much of my grandparents until after my mother left. This brought the unexpected gift of my brother, sister and myself spending a lot of time in their tiny lake house, which was the parsonage to the little country church my grandfather pastored.
My great- grandparents were Norwegian immigrants who settled two small farms in South Dakota. The legacy left to my grandparents was not wealth. My grandparents were impoverished by every scale used to determine wealth in America. I would not have known that. In my world, their home was the pinnacle of wealth and prosperity. Not because it was big, (although it was to me) or lavish…but because it was full of life and love. Love was expressed in their home through the things my grandparents Austin and Myrtle were creating every waking hour of their existence.
The morning always started with warm and fluffy homemade biscuits with canned jam… or loaded oatmeal, or pancakes from scratch. The bedding, the curtains, even the clothes I was wearing, my grandmother had likely made from deconstructing other things and reusing the “good parts”. My grandfather kept a garden. All day long he putzed in the garden to grow the food we would eat for the rest of the year. The tools my grandfather used were jerry-rigged and reimagined from old tools.
My grandparents each had a craft. My grandfather made pottery and my grandmother knitted. Being the pastor of a church, they were invited to every baby shower, bridal shower and celebration, to which they would go, proudly delivering beautiful gifts they had made. Canned jams, knitted baby booties or mittens, homemade pottery cream pitchers, vases, or candle holders were the most prized and precious gifts.
I felt like an afterthought in my childhood world. Between my mother leaving, and my second mom’s battle with cancer, which eventually took her life, I often felt alone and forgotten. One year, for my birthday, my grandmother made me a “quilt” of two flat sheets she had bought at the second-hand store. That became my security blanket. I used it to wrap myself in love, memories and kinship to my grandparents which came from that quilt. That quilt made me feel seen and traveled with me through life, from my childhood years, to college, and it was there for the growing up years of all my own children. My youngest daughter brought it to New York when she left for acting school immediately out of high school. It had been a part of her growing up. We still have it. It’s in the closet right now waiting for our next campfire party where I’ll take it out for guests and family to wrap themselves and stay warm in the evening air.
Financial poverty, poverty of spirit, or poverty of vision and hope can feel like a dead-end place. I’ve been in all of these places many times. Whether it’s a lack of external resources or internal resources, it can be hard to know how to move forward when it looks like the resources just aren’t there.
Creating is one of those things I found could always be done and can breath life into dead space. We may have little, but we always have something. Creating forces us to look up and seek out…to engage our spirit and minds. Creating is an act of rebellion to the “way things are” and an act of revolution to change it for the better.
When I was raising my own kids in poverty, I let the inspiration of my grandparents propel me into living upward. While living in Alaska, my husband was working at his construction business. It provided “just enough”, but at this particular time, we were between paychecks and we had gone several days without a lot to eat. The kids were hungry and they complained to me about their hunger. I couldn’t tell them to “wait just a few more days” until the next paycheck, so in the spirit of creating, I suggested they do what the pioneers did and pick the dandelions and eat them. I explained how nutritious they were and that would help us get through until our “harvest”. That was all they needed to start their adventures of all things dandelion. What could have been a time of defeat, turned into victory with the dandelion soup, tea, and patties. The fond memories around the dandelion days have continued to nourish our souls and will undoubtedly continue to do so for generations to come.
A poem, a drawing, a new tool, a reimagined or newly accessorized garment, a freshly baked cookie, or a carefully constructed sandwich are ways of bringing life into our real worlds of struggle. The experience of creating and the enjoyment of the created thing can bring life into the moment, and create new life patterns that will last for generations to come.
The Bringing-Home-to -Life series is a reminder that in our pursuit of creating peace, expectancy, belonging and sanctuaries for growth…it can be done with joy and excitement through small acts of nurturing, celebrating, creating and collaborating. No matter how bad things get (which they will), no matter how devastating the blows are (which is part of life), nurturing, celebrating, creating and collaborating are free and require very little of ourselves to bring life into each situation. These things make us feel good, and when we feel better, we do better, and that creates eternal ripples of change.