Sunday, 16 March 2008

Requiem for a Way of Life

Painted Maypole asked for an obituary for today's Monday Mission. It's a bit skewed, maybe, but here's my take on it.

When I was a little girl, no older than you are, my grandmother used to call me 'Little Stuff'. My mother and I used to go and visit her and my grandfather, driving in our own car, over 100 kilometres to get there and as much to get back, just for the afternoon. My mother's car was one of the first electric ones -- almost everyone else drove cars with gasoline or diesel engines like the ones you saw in the Museum of the Twentieth Century last month. My mother's car was grey and everyone used to laugh because it didn't make any noise when she started it. Well, because the gas and diesel motors made a big noise when you turned them on, like RRRRRrr.

I liked to visit my grandmother because she had a little swimming pool in her basement. It wasn't very big, not like the big pools that you've seen in pictures, but it was really warm because it was inside and the water was heated with electricity. And it had a thing like a boat propeller in the front, with a grill over it, and when she turned it on the water would move fast and she could swim in one place. I loved that pool so much! My grandma would make the water go fast and I would sail down the pool with a floatie and my grandma and I would laugh a lot. And it was always warm. Just think, there was so much electric power that my grandparents could use it like that.

You'll learn in school when you're older about how using all that electricity was a bad thing, and how it made the air dirty and how the gasoline and diesel engines in the cars were bad and used up all the fuel, so now we are more careful and we don't use too much. But when people used all that fuel all the time, things were different than they are now. Just think, we had strawberries all year round. They grew them in different places and big airplanes --not like the balloon air cars -- that could go very fast, well, those airplanes brought food from different places all around the world, all the time. Fruit you don't know about now, like kiwis, and meat from a place on the other side of the world called New Zealand, and pears from Israel on the other side of the ocean. A long, long way. We had blueberries all the time, too. I loved blueberries. My grandpa used to eat the squishy ones for me, like I do for you. Only we bought them at the store. In the winter.

I went in an airplane when I was your age and we went all the way from here to Vancouver on the other side of Canada, for a month, because your grandma and grandpa had work to do there. Just for a month. And we got there in just a few hours on the plane. We don't have that kind of plane any more because it took too much fuel to run it and it made the air dirty.

Well, you know what happened because the air got too dirty. The weather got really bad and there were floods and people drowned. Whole cities went under water, or part of them did. And the weather got warmer, too. There was snow all winter, when I was your age, lots of it, and it was white all the time. One winter there was so much snow that the piles were up to the second story windows in the house where I lived and the snow completely blocked my grandma's garage door, where she kept her car, and my mother had to dig it out for her. And I climbed on the snow piles and slid all the way down.

Are you finished your snack. Good. We can go outside now and you can help me in the garden. Only you have to be careful to just pull up what I tell you. We need the weeds to come out and the vegetables to stay or grandma won't have any soup next winter. Okay? Why am I crying? I'm really not. Just remembering, and the sun got in my eyes for a minute, okay? It was very wasteful, that world, and my grandma was bad to use all that electricity, but I really loved that pool.


  1. oof. This was a shot to the heart.

  2. And here I just got off a transatlantic flight ... just thinking of Little Stuff having her own little girl makes me teary. What an incentive to clean up our act.

  3. very sweet and very thought provoking. i love seeing where the monday mission takes you. thank you for always being so thoughtful in your entries.

  4. this just made me cry and cry. really, this was a great piece of social commentary and great writing.

    Running on empty

  5. Mary, this was wonderful.

    I talk this way to my kids sometimes. The blueberries come from the other side of the earth! Isn't that amazing? I've been buying frozen blueberries -- they come from the other side of the mountains, which is still far of course...