Tell me you’re a grandchild of The Great Depression without telling me you’re a grandchild of The Great Depression. I’ll go first:

“Use is up, Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without.”

Otherwise known as my Granny’s favorite mantra. Chanted time and time again throughout the corners of my mind. When someone wanted something new, she’d refer back to this faithful proverb. When there were ants in the sugar…guess what she said.

Is it any wonder when my deodorant melted last week, I whispered in my secret mind these very words and soldiered on with a crumbling block of antiperspirant clutched in my hands. After all, I had JUST bought it. And once it congealed back together in some semblance of a personal care product, I could use it again, right? RIGHT?

I did. I have been. I couldn’t help myself. It’s in my blood!

Except that it isn’t…in my blood! It’s learned behavior. It is not our nature to cling to the scraps of what we have before us. It is our nature to hunt, gather, pivot, adapt. I’m not saying that thrift isn’t wise. If you know me, you’ll know me to be thrifty. You’ll know me to not be wasteful. You’ll know me to make use of what I have. And not just because of the dreaded mantra!

Look! I come down hard on this mantra because to me it spins a legacy much deeper than just words. But in truth, it is not a bad mantra to adopt. If you’re looking for one, you can try it on for size. I just know this mantra is not for me. (Not even if a beloved family member has tea towels made with this saying on it for all of us to have. No… not even then!)

I guess I thought, growing up and still sometimes to this day, that if I didn’t live this way, I was doing something wrong. I mean…to be very, very fair…if you didn’t live this way in The Great Depression you could have died. (Or you were a Rockefeller, but you get my meaning.) So the mantra had it’s place in my Granny’s life for a really good reason. And when The Great Depression went away, what was she supposed to do? Give up a life saving principle?

I think many of us are faced with similar decisions and personal mantras today, going through our own life changing, world shifting event. I think about her mantra a lot these days, while still not taking it on as my own!! (I eventually bought new deodorant!!) That’s important to remember!

I bet she never uttered these words before the Great Depression. I bet she never thought she’d be the kind of woman to say, we CAN’T waste that sugar…so just sieve the ants out!!!

How many things have we had to do during the last year and half that we never thought we’d ever do? How many sentences uttered make no sense out of this pandemic life? Bet you never thought Zoom would be a daily word that would conjure a weird feeling of obligation and also somehow existential dread!

I wonder what our mantra will be. What will we say to our children, our nieces, our nephews, our godkids about this time? What will we be unable or unwilling to let go of? For good or for bad, we will have mantras of our own. We’ll say them over and over again. And to the generations that come after us…the words won’t make a whole lot of sense. They won’t mean to them what they mean to us.

Like it or not, we’re still in unprecedented times. Just like my Granny was when she endured The Great Depression. And something like that…it stays with you. It leaves a legacy. Whether we want it to or not.

I doubt she thought that silly little saying would cause me the mental turmoil that it sometimes has. You don’t always get to choose the legacy you leave behind. You don’t always get to choose how you’re shaped by the world. But for a brief and shining moment, you do your best. I imagine that’s what she did.

I imagine that’s what we’re all trying to do!

2 responses to “Legacy”

  1. Leftovers rarely go to waste. I habitually use a tea bag until I can barely taste it. I garden and learned to can and freeze food from my grandmother. Hell, I now live in her house – the home I was raised in. She’s probably the most influential person on my life. She taught me to read such that when I was in first grade I was reading at a third grade level.

    She survived the depression, wars, rationing, and this pandemic. She was a farmer’s wife and worked hard but took time to enjoy the little things in life. She is an incredible woman and 99 years old. Alzheimer’s has taken her brilliant mind though physically she’s not so bad off. There are rare moments when she has a bit of clarity, for not even a minute, when enough of the fog clears and she becomes aware enough to comment on an observation or for an impish remark that makes us all laugh. I’m proud to be her grandson.


  2. Beck Hutchinson Avatar
    Beck Hutchinson

    Oh Liz! The words just flow out of you. You really are a writer! It is such a long time (I am so faaaaaar behind). I love the title, – Nerd in the City Beautiful. I also love your Legacy post. Thank you for alerting me. I would not want to miss that. It is profound and so elegantly brought together in such a whole, integrative, and natural way. For me this is beautiful. You are giving us a glimpse of generational forgiveness (paying it forward) and yes, – hope. How could I ever have imagined your reflective, hidden paradoxical gem of realization emerging from our generational chaos and confusion? You are transmitting something vital for us all. Thank you!!!



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