When studying my ancestors, I think about their lives. I think about the hardships they endured. What I find was so common in past generations is early deaths, deaths of children or young adults. When trying to piece together the family of a great-grandmother or a great-grandfather, I’ll find children who died. I find that so sad and think about how the mother must have grieved for her child. I’ll find young mothers who died in childbirth, young adults who died of influenza, pneumonia, or appendicitis. Today these kinds of things are very curable. In so many other ways we have it better than the generations before us. We have the advantage of modern medicine. We have the conveniences of dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, dryers, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, indoor plumbing. We also have things that entertain us such as TV’s, radios, smart phones, computers, and the Internet. Information is at our finger tips. Want a book to read tonight? Download an e-book to your eReader. Need to go to the store? Hop in your car and your there in a few minutes, no matter time of day or night. You don’t have to go back very far to remember when there was no Internet, cell phones, electronic games, microwaves, etc.
Socially we have become accustomed to women working outside the home, people living together and having children, abortions, mixed race couples and children, gay marriage, and now we are dealing with transgender bathrooms. Generations ago no one ever thought about these things. So it makes one wonder if we are better off today than generations ago.
Back when people didn’t have the conveniences and access to information at their fingertips, their lives seemed simpler in a lot of ways. Men went to work, and women stayed home to take care of children and house. Each had their role, and I think for the most part were satisfied. At least it seemed that way in my family. I think my mom and grandmother were content to stay home. They did things to keep busy and save money that is lost today because working women just don’t have time to do it. They sewed, baked, cooked from scratch, washed clothes in a wringer washing machine, hung them out to dry, and then had to iron them. They cleaned the house made sure the children were fed, washed, loved, did their homework, and went to bed at a decent time. They made sure we ate dinner together every night. When they went grocery shopping they didn’t always have a car so they walked and pulled a wagon for their groceries. Milk and bread were delivered. If you lived on a farm there was even more to be done. Come fall they would start canning all the vegetables they grew during the summer months or the fruit from the fruit trees. My grandmother would make crabapple and grape jelly from the grapes and crabapples in her own yard. They gave us chores to do to. It might be the kids that washed the dishes, cut the grass, took out the garbage, shoveled the snow, and whatever else they could find for us to do. Sunday we went to church in the morning and later that day the whole family got together for a meal, and we just enjoyed each other’s company and talk about the week. Saturday night might be a night that friends got together and played cards and talked while the kids played.
I think some of the things we have today are nice and I wouldn’t want to do without them. I do however worry about family traditions. Even in our small family as much as I try to keep some of them, it’s a losing battle, the younger generation seems like they just don’t value the same things. We still have holiday dinners and even some Sunday dinners. But everyone is in a hurry to finish and go back to watching football, baseball, or whatever the sport may be at the moment, or they are looking at their phones and messaging their friends, or on the computer, or playing a video game. No one wants to sit and have a conversation or play a board game where we can all be together. I think there will come a time when they will regret it. These distractions were not around when my parents were here so I actually spent time with them. I miss them, and I would give anything to have one more conversation with them.
I picture in years to come that there will be no one around to be the one to carry on family traditions and dinners. Everyone will eat whenever and whatever they want. They will spend all their time online, texting who knows who, and not know their own family members. Hope I am wrong! Only time will tell.
Copyright © 2016 Gail Grunst
2 thoughts on “Generation after Generation”
I tend to be a little more optimistic. I think that eating and food brings people together, and that while the exact scenario might change over time, I believe that people will always share stories and family traditions over meals.