What our grandparents can teach us baby boomers

I was brought up by a grandmother who was born before the turn of the 20th century, had lived through World War 1, a depression thrown in for good measure, then World War 2 and the mind-boggling arrival of man on the moon. 

Needless to say, she collected brown paper bags, pieces of string and rarely threw anything out. We ate seasonal vegetables, and never ever wasted food – it became soup stock and we learnt to like stewed fruit when it was in abundance from our peach tree out in the backyard. To say I learnt to develop a frugal gene would be to state the obvious. 

So, in a conversation the other day, I was astounded to learn that one of my younger friends had much the same characteristics as me, not just the frugal gene, but also the concept embedded in us to ‘save things for best’.

We both lamented that we needed to drive that idea out of our heads and learn to use and enjoy the things that we have. 

Both of us reminisced about the fine china that was kept in the glass cabinet in the front room, only to be used on high days and holidays or when suitable guests were invited over. In my case that was a rarity. 

The china sat staring back at us, in pristine condition, daring young fingers to pick it up and fiddle with it. The crystal glasses never saw the dishwasher, and nary a touch of alcohol either. Their bevelled and cut edges remained virginal, constantly overlooked for the sturdy vegemite glass jars that held the watered-down cordial.

Even the furniture was often saved, plastic covers put over the new suite and then placed out of bounds in the front room, again with nary a bottom sitting on it. 

Only important guests (perhaps the priest or the bank manager) or long- lost relatives sat in those chairs, people who would perhaps appreciate the money and effort put into providing said chairs.

We both remembered having clothes that were for best, the dresses you only wore to church or as we grew up, to some special occasion like a wedding or out to a posh restaurant. Often, we outgrew the clothes before they even had a chance to be worn out. 

This happened in adulthood as much as childhood. We carried this notion of ‘for best’ into our adult lives, clothes and objects remaining unloved and forlorn in the back of the wardrobe or collecting dust in the cupboard.

Now as we enter our dotage, we both feel the need to throw out these conventions. We have decided to wear the new dress again and again, dress up to go out to dinner with our significant other, bring out the crystal glasses and the fine dinner set when our friends drop in. 

We will even eat pizza off the Royal Doulton, and be damned! Better that we break a plate or two than they get mangled after our death. 

If we don’t use our stuff then it will end up in the op shop, after we have dropped off our collective perches, discarded by our children. Maybe our children will retrieve some keepsake to remind themselves of us, but essentially most of it won’t be to their taste, it will be old-fashioned or not yet on its trendy second incarnation. 

They will have their own things that they might too ‘save for best’.

What traditions have you inherited from your grandparents? Do you have a ‘for best’ outfit or are frugal with food waste? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: The board games of our childhood

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