Motherhood: Waste not, want not

By Annabelle Chapple

My 98-year-old Granny is a product of the periods she’s lived through, I’ve always known that but it’s only now we are in the midst of this confronting and terrifying health crisis I actually understand it.

Born 8 June 1921 Betty Carter came into the world just 19 months after the First World War ended and was only 18 years old when the Second World War gripped her native Britain. She drove trucks throughout the UK for the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the war and by its end had moved to Germany to help with rehabilitation efforts.

Because of the times she’s survived, Betty has developed quirks.

Cliff Ashdown and Betty Carter

In fact, so has my 87-year-old Australian native Pa, Cliff Ashdown. The pair couldn’t be more dissimilar in their upbringings. One is my father’s mother, raised in inner city London. The other, my mother’s father, born in a dusty mining town in Western Australia. They share a penchant for being thrifty. Though older now it’s clear they both bear the imprints of the extremely tough times the world endured while they were young.

Some ways in which they’re similar: they like to imagine more uses for containers, food scraps or really anything before doing the unimaginable thing and discarding it – my Granny even puts aside lightly used Glad wrap to reuse. They enjoy the security of growing their own food (where possible now in their smaller apartments). They are not reliant on cafés or restaurants to produce any of their meals or dependent on them for social interactions, like I have discovered I am. They wear clothes until holes appear, then fix them. They live by the maxim of “waste not, want not” even during times of abundance because their values were forged in austere and scarce times.

We are facing a moment on earth unlike any other in recent memory. And instead of focusing on the long list of what’s bad about the Coronavirus pandemic maybe it’s time to focus on how this period will change us, individually and collectively for the better.

How will I come out of this?