Laughing from the grave

My grandmother who immigrated with two of her daughters. She always wore an apron to protect her dress.

In the course of the ancestry research, I’ve been learning the history of the area and how people lived in the 1800s. Life was different. Aside from the obvious lack of electricity, running water and transportation, there was no Starbucks. Or local pub (not in the farming areas). And so much more.

There are a few things that must have them shaking their heads in disbelief about their crazy descendants (that would be me!). Here are some that come to mind.

Paying to exercise! – In the 1800s there was no mechanical transportation in the area where my ancestors lived. It was very rural. No horses either. Only wealthy landowners had horses (and sadly I found none of those in my line). Everything was shoe leather express. The work they did was all physical. After a hard day farming, working the vineyards or cleaning houses, they didn’t need to go to the gym. I can imagine my great-great grandma saying, “What? You’re paying to exercise? I have chores for you!”

Obsession on foods – They ate what was available and in season. They ate lots of eggs, dairy, vegetables and never worried about fatty meats. Their lifestyle took care of all that. Worked it off easy peasy. Great-great grandma would say “Don’t pay extra for low-fat. You pay for the fat, you take it home!” and “Throw in some bacon fat to make it taste better!” and “What? Extra for organic? Everything is organic!”

Clothes – The women back then wanted to look pretty and worked as best they could but it was limited. No malls. No internet shopping. No stores at all. Most made their own clothes. “Fancy” clothes were bought from a tailor or dressmaker but rarely worn. Great-great grandma would have been stunned to learn that there are specific clothes (very expensive) for exercise. She is still struggling with the fact that people pay to exercise. Great-great grandma would say “Yoga? What’s yoga? You mean the bending over I do all day? You need special clothes for that?”

A man I met at the research center told me that his grandfather got his grandmother her first “bought” dress after they paid off the mortgage. She was in her 50s and it was her first one that she didn’t make herself. Different times. With my vanity I would have exasperated great-great grandma. Then again, I inherited it from someone! I bet she pinched her cheeks for color.

There are a lot of things they would have loved – cars, mechanical equipment to make the work easier, electricity, running water and antibiotics!

Even without all that, many of my ancestors lived to ripe old ages. Maybe it was less pollution, healthy diets and more active lifestyles.

There were some that did not, like my great-grandmother who died one month after the birth of my grandfather. I bet many thought they had a great life just like we do.

In 200 years (providing the species survives) people will look at our lifestyle and feel sorry for all the inconveniences we had to go through. We will laugh at them from our graves!


49 thoughts on “Laughing from the grave

  1. Good one! I can just imagine the head scratching that would be going on if they could see our crazy society today. Paying for exercise and paying extra for fruits and vegetables that don’t have crap sprayed on them. On the other hand, I bet most would quickly sign up for the convenience and comfort we enjoy today.

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  2. I read more history books than any other genre and I am continually shaking my head thinking of how we think so highly of ourselves. We “look back” and shake our heads without much consideration of how we will be the subject of review ourselves. I agree with you, should the species survive, we are going to be seen as we view the early pioneers coming across the country in covered wagons. LOL! I’m sure you’re really enjoying your research and what you uncover!

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    • It’s been fun. It started dreaming about this stuff. The bathroom facilities weren’t up to my standards so I’ll stay where I am although the sense of community and simplicity intrigue me.


  3. I always think about the original organic food, when our great parents grew it in their yard, and you didn’t have to drop a mortgage payment at a store. My father would eat raw hamburger meat without batting an eye … think about that for a second. Yikes!

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  4. I think of this issue whenever I look around at how I live. I realize that in the future our house will be, if it’s still around, an example of primitive architecture– yet here I am thinking I’m about as modern as can be. Perspective.

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    • I remember when my mother got a refrigerator with a “real” freezer section instead of the little box that only fit ice cream. She was over the moon! Now for two of us we have two rather large refrigerators with both freezers filled to capacity.

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  5. You make so many good points here. We get so ensconced in our routine, the way LIFE is here, that we forget that not so long ago, LIFE was lived quite differently. I know it was harder for people a few generations ago, but probably much healthier and ‘real’ in so many ways. I think if our lives become any easier and even more ‘convenient,’ we may truly be in trouble. ;-0

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  6. A fun post, and I suspect you’re right on nearly all the reactions your great-great grandmother would say about most of those things. My maternal grandmother always used to criticize my parents for going out to restaurants. She thought it was the worst waste of money in the world. – Marty

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  7. Amazing how much things change in 200 years. When you think of it, our way of life is a lot crazier than theirs. Paying to exercise, driving to the gym, buying water in a plastic bottle, all the garbage we make, flying here and there for fun … it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But we’re used to it.

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  8. On occasions, I think about people who were living in George Washington’s time and how they might react if they were able to see us now. Planes, televisions, air conditioning, supermarkets, and cars! They’d probably ask: Where do I sign up? 😀

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  9. Indeed how times have changed.
    I remember walking the mile to and from school when I was a child, and running down to the corner shop for Mum as she didn’t drive. The nearest thing to food delivery was Sonny’s van twice a week where we could get butter, bacon and usual groceries. Whether Sonny was his real name I have no idea. It is laughable that we pay to exercise when we used to walk everywhere, or pay to have someone tell you you’re overweight.

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  10. “You mean the bending over I do all day? You need special clothes for that?” LOL Good one. BTW, put a photo of my great-grandma next to yours in the apron and they’re twins. Mine immigrated from Italy though. I have lots of old photos that my grandmothers left behind.
    Fun post. 🙂

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  11. Astute and hilarious! Love the bending over and chores for exercise comments.
    I remember my elderly dad seeing battery operated tooth brushes and saying “Since when did people get so lazy they can’t brush their own teeth?” (Of course he was diligent about brushing, flossing, and old golden Listerine gargles for gums and keeping germs from going down throat to prevent colds/germs causing sickness)
    Fancy dresses were store-bought – it was so cool to have new store-bought dresses for school (not hand-me-downs from cousins or sewn by moms). The youngest generation probably can’t imagine mom making their clothes at all.
    Eating out used to be a rare treat – seriously mom would say “pay someone to cook what I can make at home cheaper and better?”
    Oh we are so spoiled…and nice sometimes

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  12. I’m sure we’re exasperating a lot of our greats and great-greats. I echo Jill’s obesity comment. Remember being a kid and seeing an obese person was a rarity? I do like our conveniences and our inventions, but I think some parts of our lives are a little off kilter.

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    • There is always some bad with the good. There was a peacefulness and naivety when I was young. No one in our neighborhood locked the doors. If my mom had to do an errand she let me play outside knowing someone would have my back. With no air conditioning, people were outside more. Good times.


  13. Great post, Kate. I sometimes reflect on the absurdities of our lifestyle compared to our ancestors. I live in these times and the whole ‘organic’ thing is one that makes me shake my head :/
    Paying to exercise and all our activity-specific clothes are great examples!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I was laughing over the walking everywhere comment. I live in LA, which is completely car-centric. Where I live, the grocery store, Starbucks, Walgreen’s, and several other stores are within a mile. Yet if I run into girlfriends or neighbors, they are shocked that I would walk. Like the old song says, “Nobody walks in L.A.”

    Probably too exhausted from their hot yoga class.

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