The first world has become a culture of entitled pricks.
We don’t make anything anymore. We pay for it. We consume it. And we want it instantly. We are a culture that bitches profusely when free social media websites go down for five minutes. We carry portable phones that can connect us to anything in the matter of seconds. We pay for everything with a plastic card and we hold more faith in its effectiveness than most religions. How many people would even know the word “callus” if you used it in a sentence these days?
We have the rare privilege of being able to still know the “Greatest Generation”: those who survived and fought through the great depression and World War II. We have desecrated their legacy as a culture by becoming everything they weren’t. We trust banks. We throw out perfectly good clothes we grow tired of. We waste food that is almost always pre-made from a jar or a box.
We’ve become lazy. We’ve lost our ability to create and self-sustain without purchasing from others.
My grandfather, the way I remember him, was a bitter old ugly man with ginger hair who drank a pot of coffee every day and chain smoked at the kitchen table. He looked like a younger version of Charles Bukowski, even when he was old. However, his face grew to be distorted, apparently because he was an Irish boxer in his earlier days. I only remember glimpses of my grandmother, except I know she was well liked by everyone. She had cheeks that when she smiled you couldn’t help but smile as well. Her almond-shaped eyes always were deceivingly innocent, until you realize she was joking and you caught a glimmer of evil in them as they smiled back at you. I have the same eyes.
My grandfather was a depression kid. He used to ride on boxcars looking for work until he started working for the Navy shipyards. One day he told everyone he was going to Chicago, but no one really believed him. He rode on boxcars both ways and when he came back he told everyone he wanted to see the spot John Dillinger was shot. To this day a family tradition before any of us leave on a random adventure – which we all seem to do often – we tell everyone we’re going to Chicago.
He worked the shipyards throughout the war. He tried to enlist multiple times, but was turned away each time and told the work he was doing was too important. He used to tell us these great stories about sneaking into classified areas where they would test catapult devices and shoot off rats. He would make screaming faces that the rats would make as they went flying off to their deaths.
A side effect of being depressions kid was that both of them could never sit still and neither of them trusted banks. Although when he died, my grandfather had close to a million dollars. They tried to put their money into as many tangible things as he could. So he built two houses in Cape May, NJ. He’d pack up the car every weekend and my grandmother and the kids would live in a garage and use an outhouse while he built foundations and walls and ceilings. When he finished that, he built the furniture in the houses. Up until a few years ago, we used a kitchen table he made. After that he got into iron works. He made railings, and baker’s racks, amongst other things. When the houses were finished he decided to build a boat.
The only thing he ever failed at was sewing. He decided since my grandmother knew how to sew and would often sew the entire family’s clothes instead of buying new things, that it would be easy and he could do it as well. For his first project, he picked a three-piece suit. And failed miserably. He claimed God needed to humble him anyway.
My grandmother is often overlooked in terms of accomplishments, however she was before her time in that she worked a full-time job. Neither of them needed the money. She would cook dinner, work overnights in a factory, cook breakfast, clean the house and sleep while raising three girls and managing three houses.
If I didn’t remember them vaguely and if there weren’t remnants of their legacy all around me, I wouldn’t believe either one of them actually existed, except maybe as a tall tale told to children at night so they feel better about having to hang out with a mean old man all day who chain smokes and drinks a pot of coffee.
When you look at your life story will you be able to tell stories anywhere near these? When we reminisce of the past to our grandchildren, will it consist of telling our kids which video games we won? What great televisions shows we watched?
We can only hope and pray the world doesn’t come crashing down around us. But if you want to know what that feels like, ask your grandparents.
I’ll be too busy trying to sew a three-piece suit.
Nicole Alexandria is off doing cool things like a boss that you probably never heard of while not giving a single fuck all day every day. You can contact her through Facebook.