So today I ventured out to gather groceries for my 94-yr. old mother, who still lives alone on the farm where I grew up. She no longer drives due to macular degeneration, but she reads as much as her eyes allow, keeps an absolutely weedless garden, grows nearly all her own food and preserves it all. She loves sports, so is finding the lack of basketball, baseball and other sports very sad. She has a lengthy prayer list and is known far and wide as a “prayer warrior.” She still hand writes a letter to me and mails it every Monday, a tradition begun when I left for college. She writes regularly to her three remaining high school classmates, all her grandchildren, and sends birthday, anniversary, sympathy, and get well cards without fail. She keeps up on the local and national news much better than I. Her memory is terrific; she keeps all her books without a calculator.
It took stops at three groceries to get the supplies on her list. There was nothing exotic, just the basics. I really lucked out at one store, as a worker was just unwrapping a pallet of toilet paper, and that was on Mom’s list. She was careful to instruct me to just get what she needs of any item. She is not a hoarder. Having lived through the scarcities of WWII, she has a good idea of what she will need to get by. She’s always been frugal, and now she’s making cut-backs, so that “families with less will find what they need.” I couldn’t find the brand of toothpaste she uses, but she was perfectly satisfied with a substitute, and the same for margarine, bread, and fish oil capsules. “In times like these, we can’t be particular,” she says.
I was surprised at how well the stores were stocked and the variety they offered. The entire deli counters were sold out at one, no flour, toilet paper, wipes, or paper towels at two, no stick margarine at any, no potatoes at one, and lots of frozen and canned goods were missing at all three, but there was a little chicken, ground beef and plenty of pork. Indiana is big pork raising country, so that was no surprise. I also found tissues, which I hadn’t found at the first 2 stores, bacon, and eggs.
I took 10 bags of composted manure and put them on her raised beds. Her eyes lit up when I pulled out onion sets (that took two additional stops to find), pea seeds, lima bean seeds, and carrot seeds. She has everything else she’ll need to grow a bountiful vegetable garden. All of her flower gardens around the house are perennials, but she does grow a long row of zinnias along the vegetable garden to attract butterflies and other pollinators. She had spent yesterday picking up sticks in her lawn, and as soon as I left, she was going to remove the few weeds that have sprouted in her raised beds before the rain comes.
We spent a lot of time over lunch talking about the differences between times in WWII and now. Having lived all her life in rural locations, and being somewhat of a tom-boy who loved the outdoors much more than the indoors, her view is that this confinement must be harder for most Americans than life was back then. “Of course, we were SO worried about our boys in the war, but our life at home wasn’t that different. We worked hard, had our families to support us emotionally, and all our community worked together for the war effort. So we didn’t have leather, butter, sugar and a few other things that were rationed, we had enough. We still went to church, the children went to school, the farmers planted their crops and harvested, with everyone helping where needed. Cities weren’t so big, families weren’t so far apart.”
She spent the next half hour ensuring that I understood what she wants for her funeral (a small, family only service in the mausoleum, a dark gray metal casket and dressed in her gray suit with the butterfly pin) and as I left remarked, “You know, I probably won’t use all those pea seeds this year, so there should be enough for me to plant next year!”
And that, my gentle readers, is the positive attitude of a true gardener.