Grandfather’s Gift



courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Grandfather (Opa) traveled on his magic carpet after he retired. A World War I pilot who flew into a tree in France, served in China with the Standard Oil and managed aviation fuel projects in World War II, he and grandmother later toured the US in a VW Beetle— including Alaska, where they drove on a slant because the ruts only handled larger cars.

The Rubber Budget Account Book arrived in a brown mailer after our 1957 wedding; the latest in Opa’s imaginative gifts. I was already stitching my first maternity top on the portable Singer sewing machine he’d given me. The Rubber Budget Account Book provided a column for each family member. I decided how to divide the monthly money. The idea was to allocate family funds like a rubber band as needs shifted, but avoid overspending since the monthly amount was fixed. We Depression babies were conservative spenders, especially in the pre-credit card era.

Through the years we raised five kids and moved several times, along with various careers and hiatuses. We zeroed in on thrift shops and yard sales and sometimes drank powdered milk. I canned vegetables, stitched drapes, and sewed two slipcovers for the couch with grandfather’s sewing machine. Today’s middle-class women have more choices . Time is money.

By the time the kids had their teeth straightened and headed for college, imbued I hoped with careful shopping habits, I was bringing thrifty brown-bag lunches to my office cubicles.

Writing is my magic carpet now. How I love the ride. Grandfather set the stage. I’ve featured the other side of the family in my recent memoir, Mysterious Builder of Seattle Landmarks, Searching for My Father. The story focuses on my immigrant forebears. In North America we are all immigrants.



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