My mother, an eldest, Midwestern, Germanic child of the Depression, was the Queen of Making Do. It’s not as if my sisters and I totally went without, because when it came to being loved, tended to, educated, sensibly fed and sensibly clothed, we wanted for nothing. It was everything else in the world that we did without: Store-bought cookies, hot games or toys that our friends had, and other meaningless extraneous stuff that children don’t think they can live without, and yet, can.
I desperately wanted The Barbie Game that Mattel put out in the 60s, a board game where you drew Boyfriend cards, and bought outfits, and got your hair fixed for the prom. I was only 12 and didn’t have the wherewithal to buy it for myself. Mother – having seen the game when a friend brought it to the house to play – thought it was a waste of good money. I’m sure it was selling for only two or three dollars, but that didn’t matter. She offered an option: If we wanted to make the physical game ourselves, she would save cardboard and paper and support us by buying crayons and pens so we could work on it. My sisters and I slaved over it for a whole summer, debating and making high-level decisions regarding card colors and what to use as tokens, while coloring, cutting, and pasting. We even created a box for it. And never once played it when completed, of course. The joy was in the journey. When Mom managed at JC Penney, she got first crack at flawed merchandise that wouldn’t be returned to the makers or the warehouse, which prompted us while opening gifts to proclaim, “Cute! Love it! Where’s the flaw?”
Making do serves us well now. These are times when instant gratification doesn’t feel as gratifying as you think it might. During this pandemic year, I’ve come to realize that I need less than I thought I did, but want more than I have, which pretty much sums up my childhood. Not a bad thing.
The title of this blog post is a reference to a custom-made car mat that was returned, and which Mother used in her car for at least a decade. It was supposed to read, “Be Bold. Be Brave,” but was received “Be Bold. Beb Rave,” words that we still use today when urging each other through difficult times.
October 15, 2020