This is such a lovely remembrance by a woman named Venus Bardanouve from Harlem, Montana. It’s now gone from the public website, but I managed to find it in the Wayback Machine.
So many of these stories will be lost if we don’t remember them. I’m going to put the entire story here. If Reminisce Magazine wants me to remove it for copyright reasons, I will gladly do that. But it blessed me so much, I wanted to keep a memory of it here on my blog. Sadly the pictures are missing, but the story will live on.
“Yes, I know—you walked five miles to school, barefoot in the snow, and it was uphill…both ways!”
That’s how I sometimes tease a friend whose memories of the Depression are of dark and difficult times. My own recollections of those days are much more upbeat. Why the difference?
Thinking about it now, I realize that my mother set the tone of our lives back then. The Depression and all its deprivation might have entered our St. Paul, Nebraska home…but Mother never let it enter our hearts.
How could I not feel the joy of life when Mother and I were having so much fun “skating” on our dining room floor? After she rubbed paste wax on the surface, we’d don heavy socks and do the polishing by skating and dancing on it. While we worked, we sang Red Wing or other songs from her teen years.
Made Dull Days Colorful
Mother fought dullness with beauty. She used my watercolors to paint pictures on plain white paper, turning it into colorful wrappings for homemade gifts.
We didn’t have much money, but Mother always managed to find paint to brighten our kitchen. When she painted the trim on the kitchen table and chairs, she also painted the wooden handles of large spoons and other utensils.
Of course, we all wore hand-me-down and made-over clothing. But I never felt anything but pride in my clothes—because that was the way Mother saw them.
Then there was the joy of the homemade Christmas dress I never saw until Christmas Eve. Mother blindfolded me as I tried it on for fittings, and I wasn’t allowed to touch the material so it would be a complete surprise.
Christmas Spirit Prevailed
On Christmas Eve, the dress was revealed in all its glory. I wore it to my school Christmas program, where I “spoke a piece.” How could the Depression spoil your life when you had a surprise Christmas dress?
Even when doing the toughest chores, Mother had a way of having fun. I remember how we struggled to bring in frozen clothes from the line during winter.
Instead of complaining about our stinging hands, we’d laugh and prop the stiff clothes up on chairs like people until that clothing thawed.
Even mealtimes were fun. The food was plain, but we’d often eat in the yard on a picnic table Father built, or have a real picnic at a nearby river to cool off in the summer heat.
Mother worked hard in the garden to grow much of our food, but she also found places to plant the flowers she used to brighten our lives.
She even made an adventure out of the day our home-bottled root beer began exploding in the cellar. With a dishpan in front of her face for protection, she gingerly placed the “unblown” bottles in a bushel basket and carried them outside. That day, she seemed the epitome of bravery to me!
And she was a brave woman. During those hard times, Mother must have felt discouragement and worry…and she probably cried some secret tears. But she was determined our lives would be full of pleasant memories.
Mother’s songs, flowers, paint and victorious spirit surrounded and protected her family. Although those delights cost little or nothing, they wove happiness into a somber background of the Depression. She taught me it’s not your circumstances but your attitude that makes life good.