Saturday, January 22, 2011

Creativity on a Meager Budget

When we were kids we had to be creative in our gift giving because of lack of funds. I remember one year when Vicki and I were in junior high, when somehow we had a means of some income. We walked to town, in a much more innocent era, every Saturday to put a dollar down on the layaway of a quilted robe for Mom. We were so proud when she opened it on Christmas Eve. I wish I could find the picture, but I know she wouldn't appreciate my publishing it because she had pincurls in her hair that night.

When we did have money we had fun buying gifts. When we didn't, we improvised. I have such a clear picture in my mind of the Mother's Day Eve when Vicki and I realized we had done nothing to prepare for the next day. It was too late to buy anything, even a card, even if we'd had any cash on hand. We came up with the idea of writing her a letter. We spent the evening in our bedroom memorializing memories of her as our mom. I remember laughing so hard as we wrote, thinking that Mom would laugh just as much.

Now as mothers, we understand, but that Mother's Day we were shocked by the reaction of tears instead of laughter. I wouldn't be surprised if she still has that letter somewhere in her precious memories stash. I'd love to read it at this stage of my life.

Another time I remember well was the summer I was 18, between sophomore and junior year of college, I believe. Another time of poverty in the lives of the Swanson kids. We needed to do something for our parents' 20th anniversary that August. It was Sunday after church and while we were still dressed up, we decided to go to the basement and take a picture for them. Our brother, Barry, was editor of the high school paper that year and also the photographer. He had his own little dark room down there and was able to process and print pictures. He set the camera on the tripod with the timer and we waited for the flash, and waited, and waited, feeling sillier by the second. Thus the incredibly wide, cheesy grins - we were laughing so hard I'm surprised they didn't come down to see what was going on.

I imagine we did some sort of "show" for them as well, but the photograph lives on.


Amy said...

What a great picture! And what precious memories to share. Thank you

Tiffany said...

Oh my goodness what an adorable photo! You and your siblings really were creative.

kim said...

Ha, love this and love the picture that resulted. Oh, and I do remember pincurls--would love to see that picture!

PEA said...

Awww I love that picture! lol After reading the story behind it, I can just hear you all laughing in my mind:-) I remember my brothers and I having to be creative as well due to lack of money and many a gifts my parents received that were made by us. I'll never forget the one year where I had saved up $5 and was able to buy my mom and dad a real Christmas gift. For dad I had bought a set of 4 fish shaped ashtrays and for mom I had bought a little dinner bell attached to a plaque that said "Good bread, good meat, good gosh, let's eat!" I still have both items today, mom gave them to me when she moved out of their house after dad died. Oh and about the pincurls? My mom always had those!! lol xoxo

Linda said...

What great memories Dawn. I really think we Mom's love those kinds of gifts the best.
I remember the year I read the Little House Books for the first time. I was so impressed with how thankful the Ingalls girls were with their simple Christmas presents. The boys were little, and I decided to make everyone in the family a handmade gift for Christmas. It really was such fun.
Of course they got other gifts as well, but I think they all really appreciated the ones I made.
Love the picture!!

Glenda said...

Great old photo, Dawn! You may not have had much money, but you all look so happy. Sometimes the gifts with the least monetary value are the most prized. I'm sure that was true of the letter that made your mom cry! I'm behind on blog reading, but I'm glad to know that Kevin is doing so well and that y'all had a great Christmas. We're spending the week with our grands while their parents are in Hawaii, so we're having a good time - and so are their parents!!

Karen said...

Looove this. That picture is priceless.

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

I remember as a child making flowers out of Kleenex and bobby pins!

nancygrayce said...

I'm not sure how anyone survived pin curls without a few holes in a few heads! It certainly was a simpler time.

Love the photo! What a great gift and to think it up yourselves had to be a treasure!

Diane said...

Creativity AND BLESSINGS! What a great memory shared with your sister...and what a beautiful....priceless gift for your Mom.

And the gift keeps on giving! Thx for sharing your wonderful memories Dawn!

And you are so doesn't cost an arm and a leg to the bless someone does it!?!?

:) Diane

Nadine said...

What an awesome picture - I love the smiles. Thanks for sharing your story it really touched my heart today.

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

Oh my stars...I have tears welling up. What a superlative post---this is by far the most outstanding writing Dawn. It has outdone all others you've ever posted I believe in my heart.


And y'know, sometimes I believe that those days when as you say "Funds were not there" ---those were the BEST of times. Should I dare say it...they were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Well, life being so simple back then and the times we really put our HEART into a gift instead of moneys...they meant so much more than words could ever say. I just KNOW if I would've been your mom, I would have shed tears also.

Brenda said...

That picture is so cute! You can tell you are all laughing. I bet your parents were thrilled.

Needled Mom said...

Those are the gifts that mean the most too. I'll bet your mom still has that letter. You should ask her for it.

I love the photo of you "kids". What a treasure!

Hope you are enjoying some P&Q!!!!

grammy said...

Such great memories. I love it when my kids write me a letter with a card. It means so much more than just writing down their name. You all do look like you were having a really great time.
We always gave our Mom Cherry Chocolates and years later she told us she really didn't like them, but didn't have the heart to tell us (o:

Sharon Lynne said...

I remember "pin curls"!

Your family memories are so cute! And you have a great memory. I love the pictures.

But I wish I could see your mom in pin curls!

Maine Mom said...

I'm enjoying your trips down Memory Lane. :-) What a great picture! You may have felt silly, but you all look great!

Sammy said...

I love that picture.

Of course your mom cried when she read your letter, and of course we can only understand that reaction now that we're parents. Just yesterday I found myself tearing up as I told Khai how proud I am of him. The tears surprised me! (He didn't notice!) But I found myself thinking that he could only possibly understand the depth of emotion I feel for him after he has kids of his own.

I adore these stories you tell. You have such a way with words and such an ability to clearly paint a scene.

Midlife Mom said...

That is just a wonderful picture Dawn!!!! I can remember waiting for the camera to flash too and we would get all giggly!

We were poor growing up, we didn't know it as everyone else in our small town was in the same boat, but we managed. Gift giving was always challenging especially at Christmas with five kids to buy for. I remember my mother always had a Christmas Club where she put $5 a week in at the bank and then got the check at the beginning of December. She made that stretch and we always had a wonderful Christmas right down to the orange in the toe of our stockings.

I would love to read that letter too. I'm sure your mother was VERY touched by the things you and your sister said. Things like that are priceless aren't they?!!

A week from tomorrow and we are off to Florida to meet up with NM and her hubby. I can't wait! I hope we get some warm weather!