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WANTED: Old People

Opportunities hidden among the disasters
WANTED: Old People

This is another yin and yang story, about turning your sorrows into benefits.

In these times of hardship and unemployment, old people tend to be left out of the job market. I am 61 myself and I can tell you all about it. And yet, if it came down to a choice between me and my grown children, who have children of their own to feed, I would rather deal with these hardships myself than to see my children have to struggle with it and their children suffer. I feel the same about it in reference to the big picture, the nation as a whole dealing with these problems. We need to focus our attentions in the right direction. As long as my grandchildren can eat, I won't be too grief stricken if I can't ramble the country in a Winnebago.
I also suspect there is some sort of food crisis coming. Not necessarily in quantity and bulk. A manufacturer can always make a paste of xanthan gum and water, salt it down with a few food scraps and sell it as stew or ice cream slad dressing. We will have volume. What we will be desperate for is substance. So I am going to spend some time producing writings and projects concerning food, shelter and health.
Supposedly you can get social security at 62. I surely hope so. If not things will be much more difficult, but the direction will be the same. There are going to be whole armies of old folk with little to do.
Luckily, the people in this age range happen to know a lot of stuff about food, shelter and health. At 61 I am solidly in with the masses of baby boomers. In that 61 years you will hardly believe how much has changed just since I can remember. I started off with wringer washers and scrub boards, and now we have automatic washers. We carried water into the house in buckets, and that's why we took a bath and did laundry once a week. We got our first tv when I was 4.
When I was a little girl an expectant woman would commonly spend her entire term sewing bay clothes. There were sewing machines, but hand sewing was common too and making baby clothes was a good starting place for little girls to learn to sew. My grandmother spent her older years with the Salvation Army, stitching up baby clothes for poor families. Baby clothing was one of the more labor intensive elements of life in days gone by. God bless Carter's and those wonderful baby clothes they invented. But there may be a place for the home made variety during hard times. Another home made item for babies was shown to me by an elderly gentleman. When one of my babies was trying to learn to walk, the gentleman tipped over a kitchen chair, stood the baby up between the legs with his little hands on the chair frame and let go. The chair slid forward just enough from the weight of the baby to allow him to take little steps to keep up with it. A perfect little walker.
Us older folk have lots of knowledge that we have accumulated over the years, and now, with unemployment, we may have time to share it. As an example, let me tell about the lowly blanket stitch. Take a square of flannel, put a row of blanket stitching around the edge, another row around that for decoration and there you have a receiving blanket. That's where the name comes from. You can also put a single row on the inside seams of your other hand sewn items to finish them out so they don't ravel. Blanket stitching around the inside of a slit makes a button hole that won't ravel and pull out as you put the button through it and back continually. And you can use the blanket stitch around and around the inside of a hoop and there you have a dream catcher. Over a period of decades you compile sets of details about all sorts of things.
As another example, here are the details I have collected about chinaberry trees over my 35 years in Georgia. Chinaberries were popular in days gone by because of their beauty and the lovely flowers in the spring. When the chinaberries are blooming in the spring the smell is heavenly and the little near-white lavender petals drift down like a gentle snow. When the blooms are finished the berries form, and those can be mashed to a pulp and used to kill lice. I read that in a book. A park ranger told me that he often saw robins and mockingbirds acting crazy at certain times of year, and he believed they were intoxicated from eating fermented chinaberries. Once they are down they rot away rather quickly. Nevertheless, chinaberry wood is very beautiful, easy to work and can last a long time if protected and cared for. An 85 year old woman once showed me the bed she was born in, which was hand made by her father from chinaberry wood. Newly sprouted chinaberry trees can grow to 10 feet tall in their first year and the shoots make good broom sticks and handles for tools that only require light stress in use. When you peel the bark immediately after cutting them, the surface of the sticks turn bright yellow in the air and are quite attractive.
You see, any little nugget of a thing that you can think of, some old person has a whole trove of intormation about that very thing. And here we are, with a lot of old people facing exclusion from our whole working society. Meanwhile, hard times are threatening our ability to keep all of our people in food, shelter, clothing and medicine.
As one last observation on this topic, I can remember sitting with my own grandmother and listening to her stories. I was a rare child who actually enjoyed listening to all that. Not only do I have good memories of the time I spent with my grandmother, I actually remember a few of the things she told me. One of those things is how she got rid of the bed bugs she was left with after an extended visit from out of town relatives. She took the beds and furniture apart and doused those and the room with boiling ammonia. Wow. Now that's what I call determination. Years later my southern mother-in-law told me that years ago they would carry all the furniture out into the yard twice a year and douse the old wooden walls and floors with lye. Maybe the wood furniture too. That was how they controlled roaches, spiders and other pests.
Now, since hard times are ruining the opportunities to lie on the beaches and take exciting vacations, here's a suggestion. Visit your older relatives and neighbors, bring up some topics like gardening, flora and fauna, good manners, baby care, pest control or any other practical topic that interests you and see how many little nuggets you can collect. By the time you get to that age no telling how many nuggets you will have. If they can actually teach you something or make something for you, maybe you could pay them a little for it. Because it seems like in these times, we need you and you need us.


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