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Survival

Watching a movie recently, I saw one of the actors using a green army blanket and remembered always having one in our home. The only person who had spent time in the army was my uncle, who had been a pilot during World War II. From where did this blanket originate?

Not surprisingly, I had other questions that occurred to which there will probably never be answers. Where did we get the huge blue roasting pans with the white speckles? Were they wedding presents to my parents and had survived all those years of constant use?

As I wandered through the recollections of my past, I thought about the raccoon coat for which I yearned. It was in a store at Maurice Rothschild in downtown Chicago and as clearly as I can remember, I never owned it. But I do remember that I gnashed my teeth at the boys’ coats that I acquired, primarily because my mom’s family owned a men and boys store. If I did have a girl’s coat, it was probably a hand-me-down from my cousin Susan. No matter the reason, I never went to school cold.

We were never told that money was a concern or problem. Somehow, we always managed to have what was needed and seldom more than that. One of my most amusing memories is that I wasn’t allowed to have blue jeans. They were just beginning to be popular in the late sixties, but my dad was resolute that I wouldn’t have any. From this vantage point, I don’t think I ever asked why.

And so, it made sense that as soon as I arrived in Champaign-Urbana for college, I consulted the phone book and found bus transportation to an Army-Navy surplus store. My jeans were magically affordable – I had $10 per week allowance and absolutely no credit. But the prerequisite was that they had to be snug enough that I had to zip them while stretched out on my back.

How much are we by-products of our past? All of my subsequent jean purchases were made standing up but I’ve never forgotten being respectful, thrifty and grateful. Objects no longer mysteriously appear in my life as they once did. But I am determined not to take any of them for granted. Shalom.

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