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a lesson from the dust bowl


I am going to admit right away that I am a bit of a nerd.  Not as much of a nerd as my husband, but we do enjoy the somewhat nerdy pastime of documentary-watching.  Our favorite documentary maker is Ken Burns.  His documentaries move me, bring to me tears, make me want to travel the US, visit national parks and give me a new appreciation for the past as well as the age we live in now.  He uses photos, beautiful music, letters and narration to tell the stories of ordinary people who became a part of an extraordinary time in history.  He avoids what my husband and I call “cheesy reenactments”, which keep me from watching most other documentaries.

Anyway, the most recent documentary we watched was The Dust Bowl.  You can watch it for free HERE.  (Sorry, that is only a clip.  You can buy it on iTunes or try to catch it on PBS.)   This story hung with me.  The desperation.  The fierce desire to fight for your home.  The loss.  The perseverance   It all hung with me.   


 Aside from the total devastation and loss of precious children to dust pneumonia, this is the thing that struck me the most –

What we do, as housewives, matters.

As they were showing the effects of the dust storms on homes, one gentleman shared a story about his mom.  The house would be filled with dust and dirt after one of these storms…or constantly, really.  His mom would take down the curtains, wash them and hang them back up again.  Again and again and again for years.  I don’t know what motivated this woman to not give up on clean curtains.  I think after the third or fourth time, I would’ve just taken the curtains down.  There was something in this woman that knew that cleaning her curtains meant she wasn’t going to be beaten.


What struck me even more is that 80+ years later, when her son has an opportunity to speak before a camera and tell his story about life in the dust bowl, he talked about his mom cleaning the curtains.  He was certainly just a little boy at the time, yet that memory stuck out.

I don’t know if my boys will remember that I did their laundry and packed their lunches and wiped the counter after each meal and washed their sheets, but this testimony shared by this man reminded me that it does matter.  It all matters.  Even if the counter gets dirty again and the laundry basket overflows again, it matters.

Doesn’t that make those mundane tasks worth more?

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  1. I love this post, Marian! And the story. I imagine, in the midst of dust, dirt and a very bleak existence, those curtains were, for that Mom, a bit of beauty, femininity, softness… Something that said, a woman lives here, and she is trying to make a HOME for her family. And if all she has to feather her nest is a pair of curtains, then you can bet she’s going to wash those things and hang them back up to say, “This is home.”

  2. Love Ken Burns documentaries and this one is outstanding. This is an extreme example but I believe a mother’s efforts to make a home comfortable & beautiful are things you never forget.

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