Sunday, November 7, 2010

Back to the Future...again.

Chez Lucas

from Jo Floyd Lucas

Our American culture is complex and sometimes contradictory. We like to imagine that we are one family, but we certainly can be dysfunctional at times. We talk about the ‘melting pot,’ the ‘salad bowl,’ and other metaphors for diverse people coming together, but we’ve proven time and again how very difficult that can be to really accomplish.

Except in times of trial. When the going gets tough in America, America gets going. We learn to work together as a team, no matter how hard it may be.

It’s natural at this time of year to think of the Pilgrims. Despite how we have wrongly romanticized this group, one thing is certain…these intrepid souls staked everything on a very risky venture to settle in a wilderness far from anything familiar to them. They learned early on that cooperation with each other was imperative for their very survival.

Likewise, the pioneers, a competitive, tenacious group of individuals, learned to travel in communal groups and ‘circle the wagons’ as an effective way to protect the larger group.

Through the years, my mother has recounted stories of ‘The Great Depression’ to us. Stories of her family of fourteen struggling together to survive…her older brother leaving school to work on a river boat, children eating mustard sandwiches, everyone pooling their resources to make ends meet.

Later, during World War II, when most of the men had enlisted and were overseas, times were just as hard, if not harder. A system of rationing by the government was in place, which meant justifying your need for everything from milk to nylon to gasoline. Mom recounts to us how all the daughters in the family (seven—and one with her baby girl) eventually moved back home to be with their parents, and stayed until their men returned. Many worked in armories, aviation plants, and the like for long hours every day for very little pay. Difficult times, indeed.

But with the gift of a long life comes a larger perspective. With all the worry, with all the financial hardship, with all the difficulties of day-to-day living, Mom insists that she often considers that time period to hold the most precious and fun memories of her life.

With that lovely perspective, my family has launched itself right back to that era. After seeing our hard working son and his equally hard working wife struggle in this period of “economic downturn” to surmount medical bills, establish a new business, and care for their two beautiful children, my husband and I began to think about combining households. After much discussion and careful consideration, we offered the invitation to move in. After a period of much discussion and equally careful consideration, they accepted.

The move is taking place this weekend. My husband and I look forward to this grand adventure, this ‘circling the wagons’ for our own little group of pioneers. When I’ve mentioned our plan to friends and family, I’ve been surprised to find that not one has criticized it. On the contrary, I’ve heard several people express envy at the plan, and others who expressed their own secret desire to do the same! I think we will hear of many more families combining resources and residences in the near future. Just as our freedom loving individualistic ancestors experienced, I know we will have days when we’ll chafe at the close quarters, but I also know that this move will benefit all of us. Most importantly, I anticipate with sweet desire the many happy memories that will override any irritations.

We are living in tough times. Despite the best efforts of many people at all levels of government, many of us are struggling to stay afloat. Maybe this era is just another reminder of how connected we all really are. Maybe it serves to illustrate how important it is to work together to progress through the tough times. Whatever it is, it is definitely a blast from the past! As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “Onward and upward!”

And for those who have been our guests for visits through the years, rest assured that Chez Lucas will still make room for you!

Stand up and dance with me on this one:


  1. The era of the nuclear family with the picket fence has ended, definitely. I know many people who live with parents/kids/grandkids, including my sister Hannah. Though like everything else, living within extended family presents challenges, it is quintescentially human.

    Rob and Laura Petrie and the kids? That was an exception.

    I love it that, as with everything else you do, you are entering this new phase with a positive attitude, visualizing the best.

    Mazel tov!! Onwards and upwards. xx

  2. Jo, I truly believe that a resurgence in this 'circling the wagons' concept is going to have nothing but good outcomes for the people choosing to do so.

    I think part of our problems we have been experiencing as a society come from distancing ourselves too much from the very people we should be able to depend upon in times or great need...the extended family.

    It's definitely not any easy thing to do, but I can tell that you have all given it a great deal of honest consideration and thought. You have given safe haven and your capacity for love will provide protection from the storm outside.

    So proud of all of you! Much love.

  3. Jo, your home is beautiful just like you! There is so much joy to be had living together. It brought my family so much closer and I can't imagine not having them around me now...Once again...You are a true writer from the soul....LOVE!!! And love the music!

  4. Reya, I think you're right about it being quintescentially human. I think that may be the feeling that people who have been so supportive of the idea are tapping into. I feel it, too.

    Linda, our society's problems are, in part, caused by our distancing ourselved from one another, but I think it can be traced directly to the extremely independent types who settled this country...surely some of this must be in our DNA, yes?

    Vicki, you have a great deal of first-hand experience with this social trend, so you can bet I'll be asking for your advice on occasion. I hope to keep on dancing to the music!

  5. JO, thanks for another inspiring post! I can't help but think how much your mom's attitude really opened a path to prepare you for this! In doing this you are also setting an example for those gorgeous grandchildren - showing them how family can come together and help out. Everyone wins! I also love the way you always snap to the positive like a magnet! It IS an adventure, and it is based on love. <3 I look forward to more blog posts - and fun holiday/everyday pictures!

  6. I'm dancing and smiling with you! Great post... yes it is time to think back to the past and embrace a dynamic that will make you & your family stronger. Bravo!

  7. How right you are, mother's positive, can-do attitude definitely took root in my psyche early on. Your metaphor of "snapping to the positive like a magnet" is so apropos!

    Thank you for the kind words, Lizzy...I think the ways of the past just may be the wave of the future!

  8. Jo--Everyone will benefit. I think of the kids who's memories will be filled with images of warmth and caring. So invaluable, the opportunity!

  9. I agree, Dubby. Everyone always benefits when we work together for the common good.

    "Invaluable, the Opportunity!" will be the title of my next poem. Thanks.

  10. Jo-what a gift to give your kids and your family. That takes a lot of bravery but I think the rewards for everyone will be worth it. My kids are just about to graduate from college and are really beside themselves because there doesn't seem to be any work. I wish I had a homestead where we could "circle our wagons" if necessary. One of my little "guilts" about being an expat. Good luck with the move and all that is to come.

  11. Thank you, Delana. You're right, it's hard for everyone, even recent grads. You may have a family full of expats before it's all said and done...lucky France!


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