Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gap and Swallow

Gap and Swallow.....for those of you who don't know, that's a Depression Era expression.  It was a hungry time, and too many of us have forgotten how truly tough it was.  We take our good fortune and our freedoms frighteningly for granted.

Nana (my grandmother) was in her late 20's--a housewife with five young children to raise--when the stock market plummeted in late October 1929, sending the finances of the US into freefall.  Nana always recalled those troublesome years clearly.  They were, she said, a happy time in some ways. 

How could such dreadful days be good?  It was because families pulled together to carry the load.  It was because people looked out for one another, helped each other.  They used anything and everything that they had gratefully; they could not afford to waste.  They believed that better days would come if they just did their best and kept moving forward.  They had faith in God.  More than anything else, that faith helped them to be strong.

Not everyone was nice or kind, of course, but on the whole people could be trusted to do what was right.  No one laughed at anyone else for being earnest.  A person's best efforts were worthy of respect.  People worked together.

While I was growing up, long after the Depression was done, circumstances dictated that Nana and I share a bedroom.  At night after lights out, she helped me to memorize Bible verses and she told me family tales, including what she had learned during the difficulties of the 1930's.  She taught me to live by my own lights, to use what I had, to see the potential in what presented itself in front of me.  I'm grateful for those lessons, and I put them into practice still.

The meals we had were often based on what my grandmother and my mother had learned from those Depression years.  We used what we had; we used it all; and we didn't waste.  I especially recall how we had "Must Go" on Friday nights--that was when we cleared everything out of the fridge to prepare for grocery shopping on Saturday, and we served whatever leftovers there were, no matter if it was single serving.  Sometimes it was also Gap and Swallow--like the last helping of liver and onions that no one really wanted.

Gap and Swallow.....that was the term for eating something you didn't greatly care for but when anything would do if you were truly hungry and there was nothing else to be had.

I thought of that this morning while I was having breakfast.  I hadn't felt like cooking and I was very busy thinking (okay, maybe worrying a little) about other things but I was hungry, so I took the fastest route:  a leftover biscuit with cheese.  The biscuit was from a packaged mix and it tasted too sweet; the cheese was processed and gummy.  I didn't really want it; it didn't taste all that great (although it might have been better if I'd bothered to heat it up); but it was easily available and it filled a space:  a lazy sort of Gap and Swallow.  I could have done better so the food failure was admittedly mine, and I tried to be thankful for it (both the not-tasty meal and the awareness that I should do better next time). 

It's the other Depression lessons that interest me anyway.  What can be made out of little or nothing?  That's something I enjoy thinking about and putting into action.  And it's something I really need to be doing now.  It's a hopeful thing to have learned, so I'm grateful for those stories of hard times when people valued kindness and cleverness and when they all pulled together to move forward.  It's encouraging to know how others have endured and thrived despite circumstance. 

Life is good.
And remembering the past is worthwhile.

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