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: