Traditional Yankee thrift isn’t obsessed with money. It’s not frugal for the sake of frugal or only buying things on sale. It values mindfulness of priorities, adeptness at record-keeping and investing, yes, but doesn’t make spending or not spending the only focus of one’s existence. It’s not frugal in all things which is why one can be affluent yet still enjoy this fine art of living that involves creativity, intelligence and self-confidence. Only those who worry about status will spend money in an effort to “keep up” and impress in ways that go beyond taking a healthy pride in one’s appearance. It’s why online “influencers” are so good at encouraging people to spend money on image management and status brands come out ahead when they can put a price on transitory self-esteem. New Englanders value independence, so what better way to live than to spend money that doesn’t involve checking in with any prescribed aesthetic or current trend?
I’ve been reorganizing my filing cabinet and had a blast looking through some of my own personal ephemera and Lenox School yearbooks. You will know some of these people, bands and shows I’ve seen. Plus, I bet you didn’t know I’m a recording artist! (Sort of…)
When I was little the idea of Santa Claus gave me permission to dream beyond my means and reality. It didn’t matter what was happening in my life, the realities of budgets or whether he would deliver. When I made my list and handed it to my Nana, “Santa’s Helper” as she referred to herself, there was an exciting passage of a few weeks when it seemed that anything was possible.
“Remember one thing: Wrong is wrong even if everyone else says it’s right – and right is right even if everyone else says it’s wrong,” Ward once said to the Beav and I never forgot it.
I’ve spent most of my life feeling like a stodgy old lady. “Little House on the Prairie” was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid, tied with “The Brady Bunch” and “Leave it to Beaver.” I really appreciate many (but not all) of the “square” sentiments in this little early 1960s booklet, The Return of the Square: The Fight for Independence, since I still often feel so “irrelevant” and old-fashioned. It’s the text of a speech by “Madison Avenue’s favorite phrase-maker,” an original Mad Man, Charles H Brower.
I think this is a great summation of the origins of square:
I acquired this little Victorian-era birthday greeting in a box with other small antique booklets and cards at an auction house in the early 2000s. It had a very powerful impact on me when I read it, but at some point it got placed in storage and so did the words that speak the resolve to be true to ourselves. (I’ve learned over the years that authentic people are the only people that really matter to me.) Recently I rediscovered this and hope to never put it out of my mind and heart. Perhaps it will speak to you, too. Continue reading “Resolution: Victorian-Era Advice Worth Following”