Following in Our Parents’ Footsteps

Written by Cathy

When I was in college in the early 70s Earth Day was first instituted. It was, I suppose, a union between the members of the hippie, protest movement and the environmentally-conscious “tree-huggers”. In any case, many of us embraced the prospect of making changes to improve our environment. Over these 40+ years there have certainly been many, many important improvements–cleaner rivers, lakes, and bays, pesticide control, wilderness protection, wildlife species brought back from the edge of extinction, to name just a few. But work remains. From Rachel Carson to Al Gore, cautionary tales prod us to action. We don’t have to be activists to take small steps to make Mother Earth a little more hospitable place to live and breathe. Sometimes it means just following in our parents’ footsteps.


When I was little we had, maybe, two pairs of shoes. One pair for church/school and the other for play. My school shoes were heavy, oxblood saddle shoes, but I coveted those delicate patent-leather Mary Janes some of my classmates wore.


I confess there were times I scuffed myself all the way home!


Did you wear hand-me-downs? That would be a rhetorical question in my youth. Didn’t everyone? Now, our good friend, Amelia, makes vintage a distinct, lovely style choice:


What a perfect way to reuse!


Large families were experts at recycling! We used newspapers to make kites (yes, we really did), we sewed doll clothes from fabric scraps, and covered our school books with grocery bags.

Cloth, not paper…

My mother always carried a damp washcloth in her bag. Messy hands, dripping ice cream cones, scraped knees, all got a quick dab with the soft cotton cloth, no paper wipes in the trash! She, and I, used cloth diapers, too. And when the kids were grown, the diapers had a new purpose as dust cloths.

Don’t cloth napkins seem more civilized than paper? Like these from the etsy shop Oh, Little Rabbit:

I am renewing my promise to myself made many years ago, pre-children. I am breaking out the linens!

Buy local…

We walked to the local “mom and pop” store with a list in hand. I can remember the grocer cutting wedges of sharp cheese from a huge, fragrant disk behind the gleaming white counter. It was the main ingredient in my mother’s Friday staple, yummy macaroni and cheese. Our vegetables were those in season, bought from the farmers who backed their trucks into the spaces along the main street of town. Once I rescued an errant chicken, but that’s another story entirely!

Support small business…

So many ways this keeps our environment healthy, but it keeps the economy healthy, too. We bought our shoes right in town as well as the rest of our clothes, plumbing supplies, newspapers, and medicine. At Easter we visited the millinery–that’s where we bought our hats!

Nature nurtures…

Every weekend from early spring until school started in the fall we drove into the country. This habit fostered a love of the outdoors, but it may just have been a much needed mental health break for the adults! My husband’s family had a special spot along the creek that they affectionately called “The Acre”. To get there you had to bravely cross the water in your car–no bridge! John’s cousin learned the hard way not to open the door upstream.

What I am struck with is that our parents seemed to understand the value of being frugal, whether it was by necessity or not. Theirs was not a throw-away society. I am grateful for that. Today we can see and appreciate that same sensibility all around us. We can still buy local. Emily just got her brood shoes from a very special shoe manufacturer right here in PA, Kepner Scott Shoe Company Inc.


She gets her produce from a local CSA.


Each of us, in our own ways, can carry on the legacy.

Categories: Emily

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10 replies

  1. An appropriate post for Earth Day! Thanks for the reminder to use less paper; searching for cloth napkins is now on my to do list. And have you seen the cloth diapers of today? I use Bum Genius and they are wonderful!

    • Yours are so much nicer! Our diapers were bulky and we topped them with plain “rubber pants” that bloomed out and added lots of bulk! But my babies survived, and we added nothing to landfills. Good luck with the cloth napkins!

    • I am not saying pour a gallon of gas a drain? NO
      but what I am saying is???? Ohh a blog? stay tuned< from Kellyscott…

  2. Thanks for the nice trip down memory lane. But now I feel guilty having so many shoes!!

  3. Remember cut-offs? When your jeans got ripped, you could choose: wear them anyway, patch them, or cut them off and live in them all summer. My dad had a whole cabinet of random bits and pieces of stuff he would use to fix other stuff. “You never know when you might need something like that,” he would say about a random screw. And he was usually right. Thanks for sharing.

    • My mom had the absolute best pair of patched jeans. I tried to wiggle into them when I was young, but I just couldn’t squeeze enough. I always wanted a pair just like hers! And cut-offs! I loved them! They were my favorite for years!

      And it sounds like your father was a wise man ๐Ÿ™‚ Green, and he may not have even known it!

  4. My dad is the best. He can fix anything, build anything and not break a sweat. A navy sea bee and civil engineer. I’m not sure he approved of cut-offs, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. My jeans were so old the patches had patches! We used them many years later for our Halloween scarecrow. Your father sounds awesome! Very much like my husband’s dear dad. Thanks for the memories!

  6. I absolutely love this! Makes me think of how much we can do and perhaps should be personally doing this. So true!

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