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Harris Blackwood: Mama’s generation didn’t miss what they didn’t have
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

My mother was born before the Great Depression and had a hardscrabble upbringing as the daughter of a sharecropper.

No, she never told tales of walking uphill in the snow to school, but she did give me a glimpse of life without frills.

The family home did not have electricity until she was halfway through high school. A bath was a once a week event in a galvanized washtub. The only light in the house at night was a kerosene lantern that was used sparingly.

The heat for the house and for cooking was from a wood stove. Things that were kept cold, or maybe just cool, were often submerged in a bucket at the bottom of the well.

I thought about her this week. I thought about her as I sat in the post-Irma darkness. What was an anomaly for me was an every night occurrence when she was growing up.

It was also the 91st anniversary of her birth. Like me, she had come to appreciate hot and cold running water, air conditioning and television. But she lived the first portion of her life without it.

I wonder if a lot of our older folks had a little throwback this week (or may still be having it). We love our conveniences. We also live in a drive-thru, microwave, next-day delivery world where patience is not an oft-practiced virtue.

The larger-than-life story of Abraham Lincoln is a trek from a dirt floor cabin in Kentucky to the most famous residential address in the world, The White House. I can remember reading books with illustrations of the tall, lanky Lincoln reading by the fireplace in the old cabin.

I had bought a new book the other day and wanted to read it, but couldn’t bring myself to do it by the light of a battery-operated lantern. Instead, I watched a jumpy video picture on a tablet as I tried to see the latest storm progression via the Internet. It worked, I was amused for a little while and then went off to bed.

Unfortunately, Irma did not go to sleep when I did. I laid in my bed listening to a nonstop barrage of wind and rain beating against the house.

Unlike Lincoln’s log cabin or the sharecropper tenement of my mother’s childhood, I think our house is pretty sturdy and can withstand the elements.

Although we came through the night just fine, I awakened several times to hear the continual whistle of wind against the house.

We lost power on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, I cooked breakfast on our gas stove and even whipped up some frozen biscuits that were pretty tasty.

I have enjoyed the lamentations of those who have been waiting on power to return. There are those who now have power, but are grousing about the lack of cable and Internet service. If you didn’t have a tree through your roof, was there really that much to complain about.

I guess we are addicted to our electronics and the ability to chat and compare notes with friends around the corner or around the country.

Mama grew up in a house that didn’t have a radio for years. When city girls at school would ask how she liked hearing President Franklin Roosevelt on the radio. She smiled and said he sounded just fine.

I guess I could have made it through the night without battery-operated gizmos. Folks did without much more years ago.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page.

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