Mom was DIY when DIY wasn’t cool

Doing it myself is part frugality, part tribute to my mom.

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One of the many, many gifts I got from my mother is the desire to do things for myself whenever possible.

Capital Italic Letter D on D Street NW (Washington, DC) LETTER "I" Y is a Yellow Bellied Toad

[photos by, respectively, takomabibelot, Aspa2006, and Llyn Hunter, Bobcat Publishing]

Mom is frugal, sure, but she’s also rightfully proud of her self-reliance. Coming from a family where she didn’t get the proper care and protection (they loved her, but didn’t keep her safe in the ways I wish they had), mom learned early on how to take care of herself and her five older siblings. They still remember days when things were hard at home, and my mother would gather her sisters and brothers around and make up stories for them out of her imagination. Her father had money, but he wasn’t about to spend any more of it on his kids than he had to, so there are also stories of making do with one pair of shoes for far too long, and things of that nature.

Some people reacted to that Depression reality by becoming stingy, consumerist assholes. My mom reacted by becoming simultaneously fiercely independent, and one of the most generous people I’ve ever met.

When she was in her 20s, my mother married my father, and a mellower, smarter, man I’ve never known, but he easily slipped into the mode where mom took care of him. Within a few years, my mom had a bunch of kids and a whole, big family to take care of. After we grew up and moved out, she took over raising my sister’s kids. It never ends for my mom.

Luckily for us, she was good at taking care of us, even if the relationship was rocky at times. Luckily for me, she taught me how to do it, too—to take care of myself, and others.

One of the ways she and I do things for ourselves is to spend less by doing more:

  • We buy the roast instead of the chops, cut up the chops ourselves, and save a dollar a pound
  • We cook popcorn on the stove, for a fraction of the cost of microwave popcorn, and it tastes tons better, too
  • We shop at thrift stores and yard sales, preferring to clean up or fix other people’s castoffs, rather than buying new
  • And so on

Lately, I’ve been thinking of talking a little bit more about the DIY aspect of my Mom Food ethos. So much of how my mom and I do family care is wrapped up in doing as much as we can with as little money and resources as we can. It amuses me that my mother, who has become more and more conservative politically as she ages, is the parent (as it were) of my most hippyfied urges. When I make my own laundry soap, or cook chicken stock from frozen carcasses, or wash my hair with baking soda and vinegar, I think of my mom, and I call her on the phone to tell her how much I appreciate her example and lessons.

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Author: Serene

I run The Mom Food Project, which was born out of love for my mom and a desire to preserve the recipes of my childhood, which didn't actually exist in written form until I quizzed my mom and wrote the recipes down.

4 thoughts on “Mom was DIY when DIY wasn’t cool”

  1. Definitely learned to DIY, especially in the kitchen, from my mom. Unlike yours, my folks have gotten more and more liberal though. Kind of cracks me up. About things they would have been appalled by when I was in high school (30 some years ago) , they now applaud and support in their grandkids. Cracks me up. Just found your blog via the Bay Area foodbloggers list and am enjoying it. I linked to my site but have a blog as well.

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