When I was a kid, my adoptive LDS family followed the prophet. With 7-year old wonder I inspected the pantry of my new family’s house, in awe of the rows of home canned tomatoes, meat and eggs. I had no idea what home canning was, but as they explained what a Year’s Supply of Food meant and how the prophet said to have it, I thought it was weird, but probably ok.
Over the years I developed another set of ideas about food storage. It was a huge pain in the butt. First, my adoptive mother, who hardly ever cooked a meal for us (her mother lived with us and grandma did the cooking) was such a grump during canning season, yelling at us kids to hurry up with scalding the skins off the tomatoes or peeling apples or washing jars, that I abhorred being in the house at all during the weeks of annual summer canning torture.
Secondly, we constantly moved. For a while we moved every school year, always looking for cheaper rent in a better neighborhood. Do you know how hard it is for 6 kids to move 60 fifty pound buckets of wheat that was never used, always saved for the great and fearful End of Times, when a bucket of wheat will be worth a barrel of gold? That doesn’t even count the boxes of full canning jars that if you bumped or dropped, breaking the glass and spreading oozing food and shards of glass everywhere, hell would have to be paid for the ruckus that caused.
Thirdly, having Family Home Evening lessons about how awful it will be in the Last Days and how these are the Last Days, (in the early 1980’s) to the point that I had to fight feelings of “What’s the use of working for an education or career or making long –term goals? The world is going to end before I even graduate high school.”
As I grew up, the conversations about preparedness continued into church meetings. As a teenager I sat through a youth fireside that featured a husband and wife from Utah who talked about their food storage. They shared their plan for the upcoming End of Times, which included lots of ammunition for their stockpiled weapons to defend their freeze-dried foods. The husband proudly said he also had several pairs of hand shears so that when people come begging for food he could follow the church’s welfare system and have the beggars cut their front lawn on their hands and knees with the hand shears. He puffed, “We will have the nicest manicured lawn in the whole Front Range!” I didn’t know what the Front Range was, but I did think, “I would rather starve than cut your lawn.”
As a newly-wed, we were counseled in our Married Student Ward to not waste our money on nice furniture until we had fully furnished our apartment with disguised food buckets as side tables, bags of beans under beds and cases of canned goods as sofa tables.
As a mother with school –aged children, I was called as the Homemaking Leader for Relief Society. I was handed a calendar of mandatory monthly topics. Every year I was to teach food canning and dehydration, gardening and emergency first aid. For the first aid class I decided to go right to the official source. I arranged for someone from the local Red Cross to come and demonstrate first aid and talk about 72 hour kits, etc. I handmade cute reminders about the guest speaker, I called every sister in the ward to personally invite her to come to the meeting and I finished off with reminding all the sisters that the speaker was a nonmember and we all needed to attend so the speaker would know we appreciated their efforts and wouldn’t think badly about the church. I was very effective in my harassment; attendance at the first aid class was record-setting. The speaker turned out to be a man. He told graphic stories of house fires, random storms and all kinds of disasters he had participated in with the Red Cross. It was kind of hair-raising. About halfway through his presentation, four elderly sisters in the audience quietly slipped into the hall. I followed them out, wanting to check everything was ok. They sighed and explained that all that talk of disaster preparedness made them very upset and nervous. They were worried that they wouldn’t sleep at night for a while if they stayed for anymore of the class. It never occurred to me that anyone would feel overwhelmed at a first aid class. I was also not a 75 year widow with a bad hip, living alone in a low-income senior apartment. For them, life in general was tenuous enough and they didn’t need to borrow more things to worry about.
Now I am middle-aged and sleep doesn’t come so easily for me, either. My husband has taken to watching a cable tv show called Doomsday Preppers. It is about people who go to the extremes in preparation for the End of Times, or war, or whatever. I can’t stand the show. It revels in the fear and dread I was taught to have all my life. We do have food storage, but I’ll be dammed if I’m going to talk to my kids about the End of Times. I’m just not going there. My adoptive grandmother was a big believer in the Mayan 2012 End of the World business and referred to it often enough I never forgot it. Back in the 1970’s she pretty much figured she wasn’t going to be around for it. She would warn us kids to be ready because we would be alive for 2012 if “ the Lord is willing and if the creek don’t rise.” We didn’t live near a creek, so I chalked that up as another one of her crazy sayings that made no sense.
I survived the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War, Y2K, Iran/Afghanistan and a whole bunch of stuff the CIA did that we don’t even know about yet. I figure when my times comes, it will come. I refuse to get all worked up about unknown stuff I can’t change. Like the elderly sisters in my old ward, I am busy dealing with real problems. I don’t have to borrow more things to worry about.
So, what about you? Am I going to see you and your family on a Doomsday Preppers episode? Or are you planning on trimming someone’s lawn on your hands and knees to survive?