Sunday, July 15, 2007

Where There Is a Will

One trait I value in myself is a certain resourcefulness. Part of this comes from a lifetime habit of frugality and training in "making-do". I was raised by parents who survived the Great Depression quite successfully and never again spent a dime without thinking several times.

In 1930 a Kilgore Texas farmer accidentally tapped into the world's largest oil reservoir in his cow pasture. His discovery marked the beginning of the East Texas Oil Boom. The tiny town of Kilgore, population 200, grew to 10,000 almost overnight. In 1931 Dad was able to get work as a roughneck in the newly discovered oil field.

For men like my Dad, who was 26 years old, it meant a steady job at $2.25 a day when jobs of any kind were scarce, children were begging door to door and former bank presidents were selling fruit on the streets of NYC.

On that $2.25 a day Dad supported 12 people, as best he could. There was himself, my mother, my sister Ruby and my brothers, identical twins who were toddlers at the time. Then there was my Mom's father, who was 70 years old and had a heart condition, Mother's younger brother Lonnie, and one of Dad's brothers who was ill and couldn't work and his wife and two children. And, last but not least, a family friend who was old and had no place to go. The kids called him "Uncle Joe".

There was no housing in Kilgore. A tent city sprang up along the river banks. Dad bought $2.00 worth of lumber. He and the men in the family built a 12 x 12 wooden floor, and plank walls four feet high. They framed in a pitched roof with 2 x 4s and tacked wagon canvas over the entire structure. He made mother a stove from a discarded oil barrel.

They had tin washtubs for washing clothes and bathing. Mother ironed with a "sad" iron, heated on the stove, using a plank set between the backs of two chairs as an ironing board. Twelve people lived in that 12 x 12 canvas-roofed shack.

They had very little, but there were millions who would have been glad to have had what they had. They ate, even if it was beans, taters, bisquits made with water and what wild foods mother and the kids could gather in the woods. Fishing in the Sabine River must have been more than a way to pass an idle afternoon. You could catch some big fish in that muddy, languorous stream, as long as you remembered not to step on a gator sunning himself on the bank. Possum and squirrel found their way into the family stew pot, along with the occasional raccoon, wild turkey and even a big turtle or two. When you are really hungry most anything starts to look a lot like dinner.

My sister recalled that she and the boys had been out making "mud pies" when a local church group came around with apples for "deserving" children. Seeing my sib's muddy hands and faces they were deemed "undeserving" and got no apple. It was a memory which haunted Ruby all of her life. She probably would have forgotten a slap but that small act of smug, self-righteousness judgement wounded her so deeply as a five-year-old that she could still feel its sting almost 80 years later.

But, I find as usual, that I have wandered off into the tangled thickets of memory, where often hang sweet fruits, but just as often conceals a thorn or two beneath the gloss of the leaves. I was saying that I am resourceful.

I have a number of medical difficulties which I will not belabor, but I have a very difficult time sleeping in any comfort. For one thing I have to sleep with the head of my bed elevated. This is not so easily done when your bed is on a platform. I'd searched high and low for a foam wedge, without any success, but for the past months I've been using a stack of pillows, shoved under the mattress. They shift up, or down. They slide sideways and squeeze out onto the floor, they pile up and solidify into baseball-sized lumps. I wake, feeling like I've slept on a pile of broken concrete.

Zak said he'd build a support and attach it to the platform. Elaborate plans were discussed and pondered. The "how" became a matter of some days' discussion. Meanwhile, I thought of the "no-gravity" lawn chaises we bought earlier in the spring. I could happily sleep in one of those. But who ever heard of such a thing? Would the Sleep Police descend on us with tin whistles splitting the night air and dump me onto the floor if I dared replace bed with chaise? Besides the chaise wouldn't fit. My bed platform is elevated about 14", and there's a shelf above. Not a lot of clearance for a chaise lounge!

Pursuing my wicked and rebellious furniture thought I went outside, flipped the legs and arms of one of the chaises flat and found that, voila! It still retained its "no-gravity" shape. I picked it up, brought it in, tossed the mattress, bedding, pillows and various bric-a-brac off my bed and put the chaise on the platform. Then I plopped my (foam) mattress on top of it and - ta-da! perfect instant hospital bed. I can elevate my head, or my feet, or both.

I slept on my highly resourceful chaise/bed last night and never woke once. I was a lot more cheerful this morning, not as many dragon scales. I guess when you are sleeping on what feels like a pile of rocks night after night, almost anything can start to look like a bed.

1 comment:

SMM said...

your brain in overdrive and a good night's sleep.

wickedly delicious