Mom and her sibs suffered terribly during the Great Depression- her father took what little money he had and ran off for weeks at a time on drinking binges. As a result, she quietly had a passion for those less fortunate, in particular those who lived in poverty and destitution.
It is my belief that she witnessed many people who reached out for a hot meal. As a result, in the 1950s, anyone who came to our house for a free meal always got one, and it wasn’t just anything, it was the best she could offer from what she had.
The men who came to our house, and there were many, were surprisingly well groomed, clean shaven, fairly nice clothes, and hair trimmed and combed. Mom was never a gushy, lovey type of person with anyone, including her kids, so her conversation with the bums was extremely limited. She pointed them in the direction of the porch, and they were not allowed in the house proper.
They would sit at the porch table and I would sit across from them. I would never say a word, I would just stare. If you ask me to recall what I was staring at, I would have to reply that I did not know. I must have had an intense curiosity about people who spent their lives walking the lonely Route 17K that ran past our house. Where were they headed? Where did they spend the night? Where was their next meal coming from?
I remember a steady stream of these fellows stopping by. From what I now understand, many of these guys would leave a notch on the telephone pole outside ‘friendly’ homes, telling future visitors that a hot meal could be had.
Although my dad never suffered like Mom during the depression, he also quietly cared for those less fortunate. Dad had a gigantic garden, about ten times bigger than what we needed, and much of what he picked was quiety bagged up and left on doorsteps throughout the village.
Mom and Dad’s generosity was by no means unique in our jewel of a village. Many folks behaved in a similar fashion. I guess it was what made small town life so special.
Did I inherit the same traits?
Somewhat. If Mom and Dad were a ten on a scale of one to ten, I guess I would be about a seven.
Gives me something to work toward.