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A WELCOME CONTRACTION
October 21, 2005
 
We haven't turned the heat on yet -- we're waiting as long possible, in case heating oil is as costly as everyone says it's going to be this year. So I have my lovely lap robe from Emmanuel Church covering the bottom half of me and the soft blue shawl Anna gave me for Mother's Day on the top of me. My fingers are a bit chilly, but if I wrap them around a cup of hot tea, it's not bad at all.

Let's see how long we can go before we have to turn it on, I tell Q. Of course he agrees with enthusiasm. Q is my lad of the Great Depression.

Jeannette the VW Jetta has 120,000 miles on her, and a little more. She's a bit shabby around her edges, our Jeanette, but that's a respectable number by any measure. Let's see if she can make it to 200,000, I say. Wouldn't that be terrific? Again, Depression Lad agrees with enthusiasm.

The bones and scraps of last night's chicken go into the big pot and turn into lovely chicken broth in an hour or two. A sliced-up onion and a handful of carrots join a bag of dried split peas and the rind of last week's ham: a hearty soup at virtually no cost, the free lunch they're always saying doesn't exist. Like heck it doesn't; we've got two quarts of free lunch in our freezer right now.

Sales of the tank-like SUVs that have dominated American car purchases for the last five years were down last quarter by 47%. The housing bubble, with its demand that every man woman and child in the United States have his or her own large bathroom, own suite of even larger bedrooms and playrooms, and own spot in the family garage, even if too young to drive -- or risk being booted out of the middle class -- shows signs of cooling down. Is it too much to hope that people will stop bulldozing razing beautiful old homes and building monstrous new ones in their places? We shall see.

Something about growing older makes us prefer our old things to new ones. New coffee makers are better, new toasters, new cookware, all better -- maybe so, but I like my old ones. My old clothes that already know my lumpy body and welcome it softly into their familiar embrace.
The spot of ink on our cream-colored bedspread is fading a bit, as I hoped it would, and it's not so bad that we need to replace the whole thing. Noodle can just lie on it and not move, when company comes.

And something about growing older makes us want to be careful about things, not to waste them. Terrible reverses of fortune can happen quickly, we have learned, and the knowledge makes us want ten thousand in savings than we want whatever ten thousand in debt would buy us. Better do without just everything in order to secure at least something. Better to be as free and clear as you can, as soon as you can, because anything can happen.

This doesn't feel fearful to me. It feels powerful. It feels self-sufficient, able to meet whatever comes my way with a sense of preparedness. I can do without most of what I have, if I must, and already know that I will be ready if -- when -- if it comes to that.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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