Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

From Insects to Prohibition


I’ve had a fly in the house for at least two weeks and no matter how many times I’ve tried to smack him, he gets away. Finally, I googled how long house flies live and learned it’s 28 days. At least I won’t have to put up with him much longer. I don’t like killing things but there are two more critters on my hit list if they don’t find their way out from between my window pane and screen soon. One is a daddy longlegs and the other is an inch long beetle. They are in my view whenever I’m at the computer and they’re rarely more than five inches apart. They’re like the neighbor you don’t know but you’d notice if he changed his routine, a stranger that makes you feel less alone because you can see him across the street doing similar things that you’re doing on your side of the street. Ohmygod, am I so bored that I’m making up back stories for insects trapped by my screen? I wasn’t sure if they’re buddies or if one was stalking the other for dinner. I got my answer yesterday when the beetle was half hidden and the spider walked over top of the beetle and they both lived to tell their friends about it. But the drama of watching that happen was a nail biter.

I miss seeing birds outside my window. I quit feeding them last spring and won’t start in again this winter because the seeds falling on the ground were attracting mice in the basement. Knock on wood, I’ve seen no signs of them moving in this year. I’ll put out my heated bird bath soon, though,  with hopes that I’ll wake up some morning to see a pair of mourning doves sitting in the water like they’ve done every winter since I’ve lived here. 

I’m sitting here looking at a tin sign on my kitchen countertop that says, “Keep and enforce Prohibition.” I don’t have a lot of prohibition memorabilia to sell on e-Bay---a few pledge cards not to drink, a box of pinbacks that proclaim things like: My vote goes wet, Vote Dry Vote Yes, No Saloon Vote No, California Dry, Ohio Dry and I’m Against Prohibition. I have always loved our prohibition collection that also includes a full bottle of Temperance Beer which is actually a ginger drink, non-alcoholic from the turn-of-the-century. That whole era of our history is fascinating which is the reason why people collect Prohibition stuff. The federal law against making, selling or transporting liquid only lasted from 1920 to 1933 but the campaign to get that law passed in the first place started way back in the 1800s with groups like the Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and other zealous religious groups. As far back as 1851 they actually managed to turn Maine dry for a few years. So many interesting things happened during and/or because of Prohibition---the speakeasies and underground tunnels connecting them, the Age of Jazz and Al Capone, the beginning of the Great Depression to name a few. 

A lot of the same women who fought for Womans Suffrage (our right to vote) were also involved in the temperance union. Like Susan B. Anthony. I stayed in the very room she stayed in at a Bed & Breakfast in my favorite town on Lake Michigan. How's that for my meager claim to fame? She led a group of women up Main Street who were determined to close down the bars (and did for a day). It was an impromptu march. She was staying at the inn because she was giving a suffrage speech the following day in the town where I live. I often wonder what it would be like to be my age and have a life-time of dedication under my belt to a passion project like she had. Was she sad that by the time she died, women still hadn’t achieved her goal? She came close, she died in 1906 and the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote was added to our constitution in 1918. But did she see it coming that soon, or did she feel she'd wasted her life on an impossible dream? History always tells a story that the present can’t possibly do.

I guess we all can’t be leaders in a cause that’s near and dear to our hearts. Some of us have to be the foot soldiers, the water boys, the ones who keep the home fires burning. And some of us have to be the storytellers and documentarians who write the folk songs and tell the stories to remind us all to respect the accomplishments of past generations. And the value of remembering the past is to give us the patience and strength we need to continue to fight today for what is right in our moment on the timeline of history like environmental protections or sensible gun control or whatever else is calling your name today.

Okay, for all the non-collectors who might still be reading this, I hope this post gives you some understanding of why a framed, I-will-abstain-from-the-use-of-all-intoxicating-liquors pledge card sat so long on my bookcase. It’s more than a piece of cardstock, it’s a storyteller’s queue card. All collectibles are story queues whether in homes or museums, they are objects that spark conversations and, hopefully, an interest in learning about the past and the people who lived there. ©

Up Date: I wrote this over a week ago and had it in my scheduler. Since then the spider and the beetle disappeared when it snowed. Don't know where they went or if they'll be back. It's one of life's little mysteries the occupies a bored mine.

24 comments:

  1. A nice explanation for non-collectors. I'm not a collector but it bothers me when minimalists get on their high horses and try to shame people who aren't like them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Minimalists who look down on collectors bothers me too. It's not like saving 75 to 100 old things is going to save the earth. That stuff is already here. Using it for home decor instead of buying new stuff actually is a form of recycling. Minimalists also didn't grow up with depression era parents who influenced us hold on to stuff that is still useful. That mindset is not that easy to shake.

      Delete
  2. I did not know that about Susan B.Anthony and her prohibition work. Why did all these people think drinking was so bad? I think I need to go back into history and read this later today. As for your critters, you'll be gone won't you before their return? Into your new home? And it snowed there already? Oh boy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that voting and anti-drinking were tied together for women who fought to change the laws. There were no laws to protect them from abusive and/or drunk husbands. Back before women could vote they couldn't have their own bank accounts or own property to get away from bad marriages. But there also were plenty of men in the anti-saloon leagues and they could quote a lot of Bible passages to back up the idea the addiction to liquor and tobacco are against God's word.

      I won't be moving until the spring of 2021, not 2020. This is a big building project. But I need all that time and it was one of the reasons like liked this place...plenty of lead time but with a deadline for my downsizing.

      Delete
  3. I love the second to last paragraph. I am at the water boy stage of my life, I guess, though I do write emails, sign petitions, and occasionally get out the markers to make a sign and walk in a march here and there. I agree that our collections are the holders of memories and stories. That’s why I never mind dusting them — my keepsakes are memory joggers and I love those memories!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Behind every leader in a cause are a lot of people like us doing the things you mentioned. We need to remember to be proud of that support.

      My best friend growing up used to have a grandfather living in the neighborhood and when we'd go over there after school he had such great stories attached to all his knickknacks. I didn't have grandparents so I credit him with me learning to see objects as more than just objects. Everything has a story to tell. It might not be MY story, but old things still deserve respect. I love your last sentence. I feel the same way.

      Delete
  4. I often wonder when I read of the Susan B Anthonys of the world just where I would have fallen in the movement. I'd like to think I'd have marched for suffrage but who knows? Anyway, thank God for her and her ilk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For me the key to answering that question would be who your spouse was and how he felt about giving women the right to vote. It took many years to get the men on board and without male supporters we women would still be sitting out the elections. The courts had no sympathy for women whose husbands threw them out without their children or any kind of support.

      Delete
  5. I recently watched Harriet and it was good. Now I need to read her biography. Remarkable what people can accomplish if they believe in something.

    I enjoy the back stories as much as the main story! There IS a story about everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harriet Tubman's biography? I haven't read it but I have a collection of books written by the leaders of the womans suffrage movement (circa 1890-1910) and I'm hoping to hold on to those. They really were dedicated.

      Delete
  6. I agree that it's important to have cues for our memories, especially when we are aging. Looking at touchstones helps us to recall things that we wouldn't otherwise think about in the day to day of life.

    And that's the thing: our lives settle so easily into dull routines! Without those little things here or there to cue up our memories, we'd lose the small pleasantries and reveries in our mundane lives. It's the reason we have Art and Music and Flowers and ... Dessert! Who wants a stripped-down, basic existence?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love your attention to the details of bug life...."back stories for insects" cracked me up! You are so right about why women's issues included prohibition and went hand in hand. I used to think they must have been a bunch of stick in the muds before I woke up and realized they were trapped in marriages that included drunkenness and domestic violence with no way out. Prohibiting alcohol must have seemed a good answer to one big problem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just went to another lecture today about the Orphan trains and it was mentioned about how alcohol contributed to so many homeless children. We live in an age when bartenders who cut you off at a certain point and laws against drunk drivers have saved a lot of people a lot of grief. Men could beat the crap out of wives and kids while in a drunken rage and there was nothing to help his victims.

      Delete
  8. I love that you create back stories for the insects in your window screen. I hate to kill things too and often scoop up tiny little spiders that I find in my house and put them outside instead of squashing them. "Charlotte's Web" has had a big effect on me, I guess, since my teacher read it to us in the fifth grade. I still love it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have scooped bugs up to put them outside but not spiders. Spiders get killed except for Daddy-Long legs which a song or movie from my youth made me feel differently towards them. I wish I could remember which.

      Delete
  9. My father's family tells many stories about how much money they made during prohibition by running liquor from Kentucky and Tennessee to the oilfields in Texas. Of course, they drank up all the profits as quickly as they made it. Living with alcoholics is a nightmare. Thank God there were courageous women willing to risk all for the vote. If we aren't very careful, we will slide backwards under the present regime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were bootleggers and rumrunners? Wow.

      My mom didn't live with her father after her mother died when she was nine but he turned into an alcoholic and she saw enough of his drinking and that of a brother-in-law to make her a teetotaler for life.

      You are right about backsliding. There are well-connected people out there that are trying to take hard-fought rights away from women.

      Delete
  10. Ugh. Hate it when I have your post up for a day or so and then comment and it dumps it! So, I'll try again! Only to say I really loved this post -- the history it imparts, your thoughts. I learned a lot about Susan B. A. here, too. I didn't realize the part about prohibition but I guess it made sense. I recently found a eulogy my dad wrote for his grandmother's service and it mentioned her involvement in the temperance union. I'm thinking she wouldn't have liked Cork Poppers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Temperance Union was quite militant and active. If your great-great-grandmother came to one of your Cork Popper parties you would seen a lot of good wine go town the drain. LOL

      Delete
  11. Making up Back Stories for Insects trapped inside your screen could be Fun distraction from your intensity of The Purge I suspect? I don't know what unhealthy Coping Mechanisms and Skills I'll adopt while in the Process of this Move, but I'm sure there will be some?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You haven't been reading me long enough to know I often make up back stories for birds, insects and whatever else I see when I'm reaching to find something to write about. LOL

      Delete
  12. I've long been fascinated by the connections between the Temperance movement and women's rights. Susan B. Anthony actually came to suffrage by way of temperance -- as did many other women. Frances Willard is a particularly fascinating character. She framed Temperance as a women's issue because women were abused both physically and financially by drunkard husbands. She then brought conservative religious women who supported temperance to the suffrage movement by labeling woman suffrage as the "home protection ballot."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Frances Willard was another very dedicated woman who history doesn't give enough time and attention to. She was so right in the way she framed temperance as a woman's issue.

      Delete