I remember the voiced worries of my mother when there was only hot milk soup to eat. My father’s cows gave the milk and butter but where were the crackers going to come from. Grandma gave fabric for dresses but often the pieces weren’t quite big enough for me. Mom pieced things together like a puzzle in a decorative design, so no one would know she had run out of fabric. That got us by until the church banned pieced designs on all women’s clothing. The house was cold during the winter, heated only by a solitary wood stove in our living room. If you stood next to the window you could feel the howling wind from a Minnesota winter. My dad stacked straw bales around the house to help insulate us from the cold. One winter some kind soul gave us earmuffs and mittens enough for everyone. I treasured mine, guarded them with my life for years. Loosing things was a careless abuse of the grace through which we received them. I shared a double bed with two other sisters. And later shared the small room with three sisters as they became too big to sleep in their cribs in my parents’ room. My three brothers slept in the third bedroom on a set of bunked beds. I hated everything about the house I grew up in. I was glad to help tear it down. I had not a moment of privacy in that house. Someone was always involved with what I was doing. I tried writing a journal one time. Its pages were found and I never wrote again. I decided to keep my memories and reflections to myself. I developed a coded system to record the events and important happenings.
Sometimes I still feel like I live back then. I pray for the material things I need rather than buy them. I check the price on everything. I only pretend money doesn’t matter when I go out with my friends. I secretly wish we could just make a meal at my house—it tastes better anyway. Sometimes when my roommate is gone I let the thermostat drop to 40. I save things like a packrat. I’m afraid some day I’ll have even less than I do now. I remember the helpless fear that hung over my head during those formative years.