A Simpler Life

Path in the woods

A simpler life.

I hear that term a lot lately.  It takes me back to my childhood when we used to gather with the whole extended family over at my uncle’s father in-law’s estate on Sundays.  His father in-law purchased it during the depression.  An immigrant seamstress and a waiter saved all of their money so when the Great Depression came along they were able to buy an estate for a song.  They chopped the grand house into apartments, which they then rented out to family.  I can still remember the wooden bannister that elegantly wrapped up the main hallway.

The house was settled on the most beautiful plot of land.  In the back, there was a pond filled with fish, frogs and lily pads. We’d arrive with mason jars in the spring and capture tadpoles.  Taking just a few home to keep in a tank my brother would set up and we’d watch them grow into frogs.  It was fascinating as legs budded from slim bodies and faces formed before our eyes.  Mid summer, we’d release them back into the pond as fully grown frogs with song and ceremony.   Wild raspberries grew around the edge of the pond, which would fill our tin buckets to the brim.  My grandmother taught us how to make jam out of the berries.  The heat in her tiny kitchen almost unbearable as we stood on chairs with ill-fitting aprons tied around our bodies.


Last weekend I gathered with my cousins to celebrate a belated Swiss Day.  It was the same crew that used to gather at my Uncle’s place.  The estate sold long ago and since plowed under to make way for new buildings.  Time and age have not been kind to us and the generation before me is under attack.  Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Age Related Memory loss, Depression, Diabetes, Cancer and Insanity were all represented around the table.  Well, insanity wasn’t exactly at the table.  Aunt Lucy is in a hospital right now battling her demons again.

I had to insert a photo of the Swiss Flag - August 1 is Swiss Day.

I had to insert a photo of the Swiss Flag – August 1 is Swiss Day.

I guess my question is, what is this simpler life everyone is talking about?  Is it living within our means or is it mealy the yearning for childhood happiness?  I don’t remember my grandparents and their generation facing so much illness.  Most likely, I missed the conversations that included what ailed them.  Too busy capturing tadpoles at the time.  My cousins and I talked about the care of our parents this past Saturday.  We discussed the care of our insane aunt and who would be visiting her that night.  We are all responsible for her though my cousin C. has taken care of the brunt of her needs.  We laughed, we talked, and we told stories and yearned for a simpler time when buckets of raspberries and a card game filled a Sunday afternoon.  I guess it is safe to say, we’ve grown up and it is our turn to make the decisions.  I never would have guessed that adulthood meant your heart would ache for the generation before you as they age.  I admit I also look around and ponder the diseases I have a good chance of developing.  Cancer having already arrived doesn’t mean it will keep Parkinson’s at bay.  These thoughts make me shudder and then I look around the table and all I want to do is freeze these moments in memory.  One day these memories may represent a simpler time.

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12 Responses to A Simpler Life

  1. elroyjones says:

    I have vague recollections of my grandparents talking about their friends’ illnesses. The conversations were centered around what practical help could be given. If the wife was ill, we girls would be dispatched to do housework, if the husband was poorly we would go do chores that he was unable to do- cut grass attach or remove storm windows. That generation lived through a lot of changes and hardship so they were accepting and pragmatic, choosing to be proactive in their fates. I yearn for a simpler life too but I think you’re right it was only simple for us kids who were busy catching tadpoles. I remember the eggs would be in a clump of jelly and the process of watching the frogs emerge was magical. Lovely post, Mae.

  2. Dean B says:

    My husband and I like to talk about “small joys”. Yes, it’s the eating-ice-cream by the beach, or having a successful bbq without the rain falling, kind of small joy or what others may call “the simple life”. It’s great to focus on the small joys, especially when life gets a bit too over-whelming.

  3. LB says:

    We JUST talked about this in the office today (helping family deal with illnesses and with parenting our parents). I believe part of it has to do with how long we live now. I was at a conference this spring and the speaker focused on just that … It is those medical problems that come with long, long lives lived that are a huge challenge todday.
    Having said that, we do treasure those simple things now more than ever … a lovely breeze, some time with a book or the laughter of friends. Glad you had that time with your cousins!
    My question always is this: Where did the lazy days of summer go????

    • maesprose says:

      I think that’s funny that you were all just talking about that. Longer life spans though richer – include so many ailments.

      I’m not sure where this past summer went. I’m wearing a sweater this morning.

  4. Tracy says:

    You caught tadpoles – me too! Used to feel really pleased with myself when I managed to get frogs and toads after the metamorphosis. The metamorphosis of life, ageing and the things it can bring (though old age doesn’t seem to be the only haunt of cancer, depression or dementing diseases these days) look like dark clouds on the horizon. Then one day summer is over and the storm is right over our heads. Often with little or no warning. I vote for the simpler life, living within our means and preventing more of these illnesses that ravage our families.

  5. Daile says:

    I think we overthink things and overanalyse. I know I’m guilty of it. And there is a definite rise in illnesses, especially cancer. We are much more connected and perhaps more aware? Better educated? I’m not sure.

    Making jam sounds like a fantastic memory. Do you still make jam? I made strawberry jam last year and used fake sugar which was a huge mistake! I might have to give it another go 🙂

    • maesprose says:

      Making jam was fun. I haven’t made it in years but can imagine that using a sugar substitute would change the taste of things. I should look into making apple butter… that could be fun!

  6. Chas Spain says:

    Beautiful post Mae – it’s nice to have a bit of time to read some posts and this is so lovely. I suppose we all have an ‘imagined’ life which is about having time to find wealth or travel the world or discover happiness. Then we find that when we finally tough it out at the bedside of someone we love or face the reality of our own decline, that adult life has taught us little and left us nothing – while our childhood showed us so much. (just listening to simon and garfunkel’s ..time it was…)

    • maesprose says:

      I like Simon and Garfunkel’s time it was… I think the answer is to have fun in the moment you’re in. Memories tend to smooth out the rough edges of what actually was.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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