Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 28: Economy

Note: Okay, I've never attempted the kind of writing I did today, so what follows below isn't good writing. It needs a lot of revision and editing and could use several drafts. It needs better characters. It needs to just... be better. So don't pay attention to what isn't there--what do you think of the ideas that are?

It was Christmas day, and we were all sitting down to the table to eat. My mother had prepared a her best meal for us, and we were anxious to eat. My grandmother sat at one end of the table, looking at her plate and smiling slightly.

"Do you remember Christmases, back when you were a child?" she asked my mom.
"A little." mom replied, as she passed a dish of steaming white rice.

Grandmas eyes got a far-off look, and she continued, "We had more food than we knew what to do with, then. Turkey or ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, Jello, pie with Cool Whip...."

"I'd almost forgotten Cool Whip existed!" my mother exclaimed.

I shoveled a spoonful of rice into my mouth, ignoring them. I'd never tasted any of the things they were talking about, even though people had tried to describe them to me. The things from the old days. It was another world, completely foreign. Grandma talked about going to stores and spending over $100 on anything she felt like--toys for her kids, or clothing. She talked about going to the grocery store and filling a whole cart with food, just for their family. I secretly believed she was exaggerating, not that I would ever say that to her.

Still not touching her plate, she continued, "We just didn't think things could change as much as they did. We thought that we would always have enough to eat. New clothes to wear. We made fun of our grandparents who talked about the Great Depression and saved their tin foil and their plastic bags." As she said this, she glanced at me, and I ducked my head--eating a slice of cooked onion.

I had learned in my history classes about those years leading up to the Fall. Years when most people had no idea what it meant to be poor. They didn't realize how rich they were because everyone they knew had their own homes, two cars, and went on vacations every summer. They did not see poverty or hunger, and hardly dreamed that they could experience those things themselves. That was before everything had changed. The world's economies had lost their footing, and spiraled downward and downward, made worse by wars and natural disasters. They kept waiting to hit rock bottom, but--every time they thought they'd found it--it sank further

I was proud to say, like many people, that my grandparents had graduated from college. My parents and most of their generation never had that chance. There simply wasn't money, and many of the colleges and universities had closed. But my parents still talked about how fun it was--falling in love in those days, when every date they went on was free. When my parents got married, my grandmother gave my mother her own wedding band--gold and diamonds had become an almost extinct and, therefore, precious commodity. I don't know how my grandmother had managed to hang on to it that long. I didn't understand why she didn't sell it, when things got bad.

It think it took time for people to realize that the very nature of their world had changed. They kept waiting for things to go back to the way that they had been. Somehow it finally began to sink in--my history textbook said that it was when the Pandemic Influenza hit and killed millions in the same summer that two Category 4 hurricanes hit the east coast. Many people lost their minds, when they lost everything. Some people had killed themselves. Others turned to desperate crimes and even killed others to get the things that they wanted. "Our faith and our families were the only things we had left, and the only things we needed." my grandma would say.

I was in the first generation that had been born after the Fall. We had no hopes of college or travel. We laughed when we learned that people used to expect to get a car for the 16th birthday. Things had changed so much. Things were so much more simple. We were completely delighted by a Christmas dinner of white rice and cooked onion.


InkMom said...

You should add another choice at the bottom: scary.

Good ideas, you're right, though -- could use some revision, but a really great start.

And did I say scary?

Denise said...

Scary is a good description- we hide in sincerely believing that that sort of thing couldn't happen, not really, no to us. This was not as rough as you had led me to expect- just unfinished. The most striking incongruity for me was a new history text book- surely those would be gone too.

Bryce said...

Very good idea. It does seem different from what you normally write, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Stretch yourself. I always find it fascinating to imagine a "fallen" future. Scenarios like that, in my opinion, always seem to make good stories.

Cristina said...

Loved it! I thought it was very good and I'm now curious how it continues :-) Will you write more?


Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I like it. Depending on the age of the narrator, he/she may be a little too "educated"/reflective, but the concept is cool.