The Great Recession

| Tue Dec. 2, 2008 6:02 AM PST

Who will we be after the economic meltdown? This is something I've been pondering a lot lately.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but if we don't all become our parents and grandparents—the ones who survived the Great Depression and used every tea bag thrice—the Visigoths are on the horizon.

Personally, I'm planning a major downsizing, even though I've been living far from large since having two kids. My parents were sharecroppers born in the 1920s Deep South, so I grew up wearing patched hand-me-downs, saving aluminum foil, and scraping the last dregs from every pot to have for lunch the next day. The amount of food my kids waste has always horrified me (all those bananas and PB&J's they were dying for, then took one bite of); since my oldest's birth, my diet has consisted mostly of scarfing down their leavings. Once upon a time, I knew this was laughable. Now I'm telling the whole world: For dinner last night, I had partially eaten raviolis and pre-gnawed garlic bread scraped from both their plates, plus their leftover apple juice (son) and milk (daughter). Pre-Bush, it was just a habit my schmancy friends chuckled at indulgently. Post-Bush, it's a civic duty, a matter of house and home.

So, I'm waiting, hoping, to find that we all become like my tight-fisted Great Aunt Pearl who grew up five to a bed, downwind of the outhouse, but owned four mortgage-free houses by the time I was born. She made an apple last for three days. If you asked her for a Christmas present, she'd glare and say, "You got the day off didn't you?"

HuffPo has inagurated a new column to suss out how, if, we're all adapting to this brave new world of utter insecurity. Maybe now America will become the place where we brag about how many we fit into how little space and not how big our flat screens are. Or maybe this is just a history we're doomed to keep repeating.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.