Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression, which created a decidedly pinched penny in one, and a sense of scarcity in the other.
It also created the desire in Mom to give her kids more than she had: good medical care, decent clothes, three generous meals a day, and plentiful desserts.
Unfortunately, Mom had to fight Dad for every dollar. I suppose we might also attribute it to his Scots ancestry, but then aren’t Germans also known for keeping a tight hold on the purse strings?
One of his ways to conserve money was to forbid the use of the oil furnace in the mornings as we got ready for school. Mom’s work-around was to turn on the oven in the kitchen and open the door to heat up the space where we had breakfast. I recall her conspiratorial wink as she instructed me not to tell.
I don’t remember many of these cause and effect moments, but I do recall Mom referring to Dad as a ‘tight wad’. It must have been tough for her, but grumbling to her daughter was probably not the best move on her part, even if it was accurate.
In my memory, Dad barely believed in taking us to the doctor; of the opinion that we would get over it on our own. It must have taken no small amount of determination to insist that I needed to see the doctor in the middle of the night one winter, and then to load me in the car in my pajamas and drive me 20 miles to our doctor in McMinnville, Oregon, only to have me throw-up on the way home.
We survived, but I do feel for Mom. She had a tough childhood with an itinerant carpenter father who, by her own account, had a penchant for alcohol. As always, the big picture is the better picture. It saves us from unnecessarily harsh judgement toward others, especially our parents, who were only doing the same thing we’re trying to do: get through life.