Sunday, September 14, 2014

hard times

On February 26, 1922, Hannah wrote in her book, "Oh yes I must not forget Ostlin came in early Friday morning to tell us a boy come to their house. All getting along fine. That is our 13th grand child good luck to him." Sadly, all were not fine after all, and the mother, Mary Marinda Johnson Hanson, died on March 4th, just a week later from complications (probably blood poisoning, guessed Hannah).

Hannah said, "We are all broke up," and took into her house Ostlin and the three girls: Ada, my grandma, age 5; Connie, age 4; Leona, age 2. The baby boy went to live with the maternal grandparents. Hannah doesn't even mention his name, come to think of it, but she says that the girls went to visit him often on Sundays. (His name is Kenneth, by the way.) About a month later, Leona came home from Grandma Johnson's with this cut-out baby head and said it was baby brother. Hannah thought it was sweet and pasted it in her book. I am home from church with a sick baby today who looks an awful lot like that, too.

Throughout her entries in 1921 and '22, Hannah lists the prices of potatoes, hay, butter and eggs. Eggs go from $.40/dozen down to $.16 the day of the baby head picture, and then back up to $.30 later that year, and by selling that and butter they get along, but just barely, since I think potatoes were their main crop, but there were too many potatoes and no one to buy them. She says they have enough to eat and "ware," but no money. "Taxes & interest are killing us," she scribbles in the margin at the end of an entry. " Her sons are off working elsewhere, too. "We will all have to leave the farm to work for wages, for anything is better then farming but I don't think it can stay that way for people will have to eat," she foresees, being both pessimistic and optimistic as I guess you had to be as a farmer.

It is easy for me to romanticize the past; it is what I do, it is why there is even this blog. Of course, though, I know it was not an easy life. I know our 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, air conditioned house would seem like a luxurious vacation to Hannah. But here I am, and I wonder why we can't seem to acquire funds for a house with a better layout, where the table doesn't have to be in the living room and with a dishwasher that doesn't roll. I wonder why Nate's parents could buy their first home for $40,000 and sell it for twice that just a few years later, when our house would probably not sell for a dollar more than we paid for it four years ago. I think our times have got to be just about the worst. Insurance prices are ridiculous and it doesn't even cover doctor visits anymore; after four years we have barely made a dent in our principal balance for our mortgage because of interest; our kids will wake each other up all night long because of sharing a room. And of course, in the most cliche way, reading the old journal brings some good old-fashioned perspective right back to me.

However, I must honestly tell you that even with this refreshed perspective, I am not 100% convinced that it is better to live in this absurdly comfortable era. I have half an idea that if I could, I would jump into the pages of Hannah's book, roll up my sleeves, and help her put up 500 quarts of berries.

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