My father, in his old age would eat an apple in its entirety – He didn’t care that I told him apple seeds were poisonous. There was no core or seed to toss into the garbage when he consumed the fruit. Perhaps the most profound of his great depression experiences, not just because he repeated it often, but because I remember it so frequently, especially in the face of the shameless waste of this generation is the one about apples. He said that the children from families with money got an apple in their lunches from home. When those children had eaten all they wanted of the apples, they would hold up the remainder and call out, “Cores! Cores!” and the children who didn’t have apples in their lunches would grab the cores and eat the remaining fruit from them.
When an event as traumatic as the Great Depression occurs, it marks people for at least three generations. My grandparents were young and my parents were children. The stories of depravation and shortages, rations, of my father borrowing his father’s dress shoes to go out on a date with my mother when they were young adults, of how my grandmother stretched the food to feed the family, were often repeated sagas as I grew up. I can’t remember how many times I heard that if a nail was bent my grandfather would straighten it out and re-use it. Many times I tried that and the nail always re-bent and went into the trash heap. Were the nails stronger when my grandfather straightened them out?
Reading Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes really brought home just how terrible day to day existence was during that time, in Ireland as well as the rest of the world. When I complimented a young woman at work on the pair of trousers she was wearing, she said they were so old and having just read that book, I said, “Oh, honey, you don’t even know what old really is. Can you even imagine wearing clothes that were worn thin and patched?” No, she could not. Then I told her my father’s story of cores.