Learning a history lesson – your own

Many of us aren’t all that interested in hearing stories of the past recanted by our relatives. But for me, I always enjoy hearing how life was drastically different so many years ago. And while progress has certainly made our lives easier and medical advances have allowed us to live longer, I’m still not convinced that our lives are better all around.

My grandmother often told me the following story, which became known as “the food on a rope story”.

My grandmother came from a family of nine brothers and sisters. Her mother stayed home to raise the children in their modest North Bergen, NJ apartment, while her father earned a living as a furniture refinisher. Money was always tight for this large family, as were the sleeping quarters – it wasn’t uncommon for two or three children to share a bed. Sharing a bed – could you imagine how the entitled teenagers of today would react to that?

Their apartment was on the second story of a two-family house. When the children were down playing in the yard, it didn’t make much sense for all of them to come upstairs for lunch (besides nine children at lunchtime were bound to make a mess on my great-grandmothers clean kitchen floor).

So instead my great-grandmother would put their lunch in a bucket, tie a rope to the handle and lower it down to the children playing in the yard – hence food on a rope. Could you imagine that today? With most ten year olds carrying cell phones and probably more money in their pockets than I have right now, they’d simply call for take-out before eating anything out of a bucket!

The point I’m trying to make here is this – life was a lot simpler decades ago, and stories like “food on a rope” weave the fibers of families together. They form cherished memories, funny stories and a history so many people today are missing from their lives.

Families didn’t have much, but they had each other and that was all they needed to get by. While gadgets and gizmos have certainly revolutionized the way in which we live, I can’t help but feel as though we’re losing the history that’s lead us to where we are today.

Take some time to turn off all the distractions in favor of a history lesson – your own.

Michael Crichton once said, “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”