I've always known (kind of) about the Chinese culture, which holds great reverence for their ancestors and elderly relatives. So much so, that sons of Chinese families, traditionally, care for their aging parents, while daughters typically marry into another family and help care for the aging parents of their husbands. With this tradition in mind, I think often of my own daughters and what their lives would be like if they had remained in China. I am not suggesting that this Chinese tradition is not as good as our American traditions . . . . far from it! If our elderly relatives were treated with the same level of respect as is shown to the "senior citizens" of China, well we just might be having a different kind of discussion about health care, nursing homes, and the "sandwich generation."
So there is definitely something to be said in favor of the social and cultural value that is placed on older people in China. Of course the other side of that observation is that, when this tradition is followed closely, it severely limits options for the women of that country. On the other hand, sometimes all of the "opportunities" that are available to American young people are not always safe, healthy, or wise. But that is another discussion . . . . . all of this got me to thinking (again) about how we, as Americans, have for so long been pursuing the dream of having it all.
And the problems that it has created for people who have been fortunate to have ALMOST all (of whatever they are seeking), and now are faced with the reality of a struggling economy. Many of us simply can no longer spend our Saturday afternoons wandering around in a huge mall, with cheery music tempting us to feel all warm and fuzzy as we rack up those $$$$ on our charge cards. We can always pay it off later! Unfortunately, "later" has caught up with us, and it is not much fun for many Americans.
My girls will often ask me, "Mom, did you have M&Ms when you were a kid?" or "Was there TV around when you were a kid?" or other equally wise observations from their perspective. And I will tell them the truth . . . . . yep, those things "were around" but I didn't have nearly as much of it as they do. And I lived to tell about it! For some people, that overwhelming desire to have more stuff, new stuff, expensive stuff, and beautiful stuff becomes almost like a noose around the neck. It becomes all-consuming, to the point of destroying marriages and forcing people into bankruptcy.
Now, all of us have faced financial struggles at some point in our lives . . . . . and some end up needing to file bankruptcy for very legitimate reasons. That is not the point of this thought process. It is about the mindless consumption of material goods that has become such an accepted part of the "American Dream." So, when I chatted with one of my older daughters about how difficult it is to keep going when there is just never enough money to go around, we came to the conclusion that there are millions of people right now who are actually in more difficult circumstances than we are encountering, and that there are also millions of Americans who lived through the Great Depression . . . . . and they survived. Not only did they survive, many became stronger, more independent, more resourceful, and more joyful directly in proportion to their determination to be thankful for what they had. No matter how simple, they learned to appreciate the little things in life.
So, when one of our nieces posted a comment on my FB page about my ability to take "old stuff" and make it into something kind of cool (or something like that!), it reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother-in-law over 30 years ago. Even back then, she made the observation that I "could make a beautiful home out of just about nothing." My philosophy all of my life has been, a coat of paint doesn't cost much and it will make a whole room feel brand-new! As I carry that philosophy of "old stuff" over into my daily life, I am continually confronted with the ways in which we so often just "throw away" things that are no longer brand-new (well, actually some of it IS brand-new, as evidenced by the number of gorgeous items I find in thrift shops that still have the tags attached!) - but we've grown tired of it, or it is no longer the "latest fashion."
And that attitude carries over into our lives as we encounter people . . . . those who are older, or a bit slower, or perhaps can't "snap it up" to our level of expectation. I see it frequently when we are out with our daughter, Missy Stubborn-Pants. She WILL do it herself, even when it takes her a bit longer than most other kids because of her CP. Stubborn in that case is a good thing (of course, it sometimes makes me crazy, like when it is time for school and she somehow thinks that just because she is determined to zip her own coat, that will change what time the bell rings!). Anyway, I've been thinking about "old stuff," perhaps more so because I just had a birthday last week ;o) but I've recognized that one of the reasons that I love vintage stuff, and fixing up "old stuff" so much is because I see so much waste in our society.
I think it is time for us all to re-think our own "philosophy of old stuff" and begin to get a bit more comfortable with the treasures that can be discovered in all things "vintage." Including Grandma and Grandpa! Have a blessed Monday! I'm off to the studio to fix up some more "old stuff" because it seems that there are at least a few folks out there in the world who like my style!
Please visit my little Etsy shop at www.gossamerwingsstudio.etsy.com to see more of my "old stuff" that I have turned into beautiful "new stuff" - you won't be disappointed!