Friday, January 15, 2016

Things my mother taught me

Today is the third anniversary of my mother's death so I thought I'd honor her by sharing some of things she taught me about green living... and some things I taught her in her later years.

Harold and Gene Haatainen in the backyard where I ate bugs

Being green was not a "thing" when I was growing up. Yet, I was raised with an appreciation of nature that started during the countless hours I spent in my playpen in my backyard in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The youngest of three girls, I was often left to entertain myself outside and, from stories I've been told, I ate my share of caterpillars and other bugs while out there. Yum. And yet, I was the pickiest eater EVER as I got older. My poor mother catered to my pickyness for years and there were many meals where I simply ate bread with molasses (for the iron).

The thing about our refrigerator and cupboards was that the food she bought (and grew in the garden) did not get wasted. My mom set a good example.

I remember the year she decided to start a vegetable garden. We dug it up, raked it, and planted it. Eventually, we built a small fence around it to keep the bunnies out. I loved spending time with my mom in the garden. Even though there was very little there that I would eat, I still relished going out there and picking peas and beans and tomatoes. Perhaps that's why I enjoy it still today.

Possibly the best environmental gift my mother gave me was our mutual love of hanging laundry on the line. I discovered my passion for the smell of sun-dried sheets as I crawled into bed in my childhood home. It remains my favorite smell on earth.

Mom continued line-drying clothing and sheets into her 80s. She even line-dried her towels, reducing her carbon footprint long before that phrase was ever uttered. I loved that about Mom.

She also made much of our clothing, using leftover scraps of fabric to make doll clothes, so nothing was wasted. I never truly appreciated that when I was young, but I sure do now. Her skill with the sewing machine was not inherited by me, but I do have her old Singer. Maybe some day I'll channel her creative energy and make some clothing for my grandbabies... or their dolls.

Unlike many elderly people, my mom was open to learning new things. When I told her about how toxic fabric softener was, she stopped using it. Same with some of her cleaning supplies. When I'd visit her, I'd find gallon jugs of distilled white vinegar. And it made my heart happy.

She even tried apple cider vinegar for acid reflux, but just couldn't handle it. At least she tried. 

And... during her last decade or so, Mom never went out to the store without her reusable bags. How awesome is that?

On this anniversary of losing her, I can't tell you how much I miss her. There are days I still dissolve onto the floor in a puddle of tears. I never thought it would hurt this much. But it's good to reflect on her life, so I thank you for indulging me and reading this post.

I would love it if you'd share some of your own stories in the comments below to cheer me up a bit. In what way did your mom demonstrate green living for you? 


  1. My mom sounds very much like yours! She dries her laundry on a line, even in the freezing winter, she plants a garden every year (and cans the harvest each fall), and she is very open to learning new healthier ways of doing things. I recently passed some kefir grains along to her after telling her how much of a difference they make in my overall feeling of well-being. I love seeing her learn and embrace new things about eating and living a cleaner life.

    And I'm so glad to "indulge" you and read this. I've been realizing more and more that we should embrace the sadness we feel when someone is gone, simply because the sadness reveals how much love was shared because of their place in your life.

    1. Thanks for reading, Wanda, and for taking the time to comment. It's much appreciated. And it's cool that your mom is open to learning new things as well. I'd like to hear more about kefir grains.

  2. My great grandma was my "green" person in my life. She was called "thrifty" back then...reusing canning jars and always returing them if she was gifted something. Clothes that couldn't be given to someone else were turned into cleaning rags, doll clothes, sewing lessons for us girls and quilt blocks. Buttons were saved from cast off clothes( how I wish I had that huge jar now) sewing kits were made from fruitcake and cookie tins from relatives in far away blessed we have been to have such women play important roles in making us the women we are.

    1. Absolutely. Thanks for sharing, Becky. I really appreciate it.


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