Monday, March 13


Oh, this is just surreal. Bush is telling us to stockpile food under our beds to prepare for an outbreak of bird flu?

This SO brings back memories of my early childhood in Florida during the Cuban Misssile Crisis. Daddy was an Air Force officer, we lived on one AF base in north Florida, only 45 miles east of largest Air Force base in the nation and 95 miles east of the huge, strategic Pensacola Naval Air Station (famous for Top Gun training). As you can see, the idea of Cuban nuclear missiles pointed at the U.S. would definitely make the denizens of all northwest Florida a trifle nervous and behaving for that time as if bullseye-targets were painted on their foreheads. Especially the military families.

Anyway, the reason the stories relate is that during those 14 days in October 1962 my mother bought huge quantities of canned foods, which she hid in what we called the "dirty clothes closet" behind the laundry bins. She filled the bathtubs in our house with water and wouldn't allow us to use them. We had to take "sponge baths" from the sink during that time. The bathtub water was to be our drinking water in an emergency.

This is one of my favorite Mama stories. She was so much what in my later, romantic-English-literature-influenced teens I thought of as the "chatelaine" -- the woman responsible for the family's domestic comfort and well-being, and the upkeep of the castle. In our shabby-genteel Southern military family, Mama took upon herself all that and the family's survival, too, if necessary. She'd done it so many times when Daddy was on a temporary duty somewhere for months at a time. And now, when we were being told that there were Cuban missiles pointed directly at our home, Mama was going to do all she could to see that our family survived.

She swore us children to secrecy about our food and water stash. For days we kids struggled with the idea of "What if a neighbor came to the door pounding and asking for food, would we deny them?" We shared those thoughts with Mama, but she invariably insisted that we couldn't support more than our own family, and that if we tried to feed everybody we'd all starve.

Then one day, about three or four days before the crisis was resolved and we all felt safe again, we found Mother emptying the bathtubs. We watched breathlessly as she took all the canned goods out of the dirty clothes closet and moved them to the kitchen cabinets. When she was done she looked at us directly and said she'd got to thinking about what she'd do if one of our neighbors (who were all like family) came to the door. She realized there was no way she would ever be able to deny anything she had to any one who needed it, and she decided, she said, that the healthiest thing would be just to live our normal lives and quit trying to make plans for a survival that didn't include all of us.

It's the same reason she gave my dad later for not wanting a bomb shelter. "Who would we keep out?" she asked.

That's not to say that it's not a nice feeling to have a whole lot of preserved food and water stashed somewhere in your house. Just in case you get hungry or thirsty.


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