Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dear Kate,

Stories like this are starting to trickle through the U.S. too.

Today on the front page of The New York Times was another piece about tent communities growing. Featured, were two - one in Sacramento, Ca. and another in Fresno, Ca. But they're popping up in Nashville, Tenn., Olympia, Wa. and St. Peterburg, Fl. as well. I spent a summer in St. Petersburg years ago working for the local paper and I'm trying to imagine a "Hooverville" there. (That was the name given to homeless encampments during the depression in the 1930s - for President Hoover.)

While there aren't any tent cities in Manhattan, it's still coming close to home. I'm hearing stories within my community- about the single mom who has lost her job, certainly belt-tightening by almost all. Empty storefronts are growing — even within a block or two of my apartment.

The Rabbit asked me a few weeks ago if we might lose our home. I realized even at 6, she's still too young for me to have the evening news on when she's in the house. Stories of foreclosures, evictions, lead the news nightly. And the photo on the front page of today's newspaper, and the caption about "homeless encampments," was easy for her to see and read. How much should we be protecting our kids? How much should they know? I told her we wouldn't be losing our home. But more importantly, I told her we'd always be together. I can't imagine how hard it is for the women you met and interviewed, leaving their children.

Families were split apart, in this country, during the depression decades ago. The United States was not insulated. I remember the story of my grandfather leaving his home in St. Louis to find work in California near his married sister in 1933. Granted he wasn't a child anymore, but he was 19-years-old, his mother had just died, and staying where he'd grown up wasn't an option. He packed up his 16-year-old sister, and took a train West, with 10 cents in his pocket, he later said.

I know it affected him. He never bought a house. Never bought anything on credit, and paid cash for every car he and my grandmother ever owned. The last one didn't have air conditioning. He wouldn't pay for that extra when he could just roll down the windows. At 12 years old, I thought he was nuts. We were living in Los Angeles, after all, and I hated spending summer afternoons with him if it meant we had to drive somewhere.

What choices will we make from this downturn that will label us nuts to our grandchildren? What choices will we have to make?



sarah said...

oh, my head. I used to think my grandfather was crazy because he re-used his tea bags 2-3 times instead of just going ahead and using a new bag.

I'm relieved Ethan is still to little to have the slightest clue as to what's going on in our economy.

Anonymous said...

Yes - these things impact on you for life (re comments about thrifty grandparents) and they make sense in an ecological way today. Thrift is now a necessity. We would be wise to look back to Trollope (The Way We live now - 1875) and Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath - 1939) and heed the stark messages within those pages. Our children need to know that we are there for them and their future, and we should start educating them kindly about respect for their environment and each other.