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MARTHA SEZ: The Greatest Generation and spring cleaning

April 27, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN - Columnist , Lake Placid News

After a long, cold winter, everyone here seems happy to welcome spring. It's the third week of April, and this is the first time we've seen the sun for as long as we can remember.

My sister reminds me that I used to say that I loved weather. If it was snowing, I loved snow. If thunder and lightning were splitting the sky, I rejoiced in thunder and lightning. If it was raining, I loved the falling rain. I take Sissy's word for it, but now I find people who refuse to complain about the weather extremely irritating.

"Nice day," I recently remarked to one of those people, nodding toward the window, where freezing, wind-driven rain could be seen. The wind was howling, and the raindrops were of such a consistency that when they hit the window glass they made little clicking sounds.

"Yes, well, there's nothing much we can do about the weather," he replied. "I take it as it comes." I thought his tone was rather superior, as if he couldn't be bothered by the weather, whether it was a full-blown blizzard or a mere wintry mix.

I would invent something witty and claim here that I said it in reply, thus getting the upper hand, in the old "so I says to him" tradition, but the truth is that I still can't come up with anything.

A week or so ago, someone told me, "We're not doing spring this year." Her words had the ring of truth. After that long, drawn-out winter, the sunshine, as well as temperatures above freezing, are all the more a benison.

Spring cleaning may be a little delayed this year as well. My friend Wendy told me that on the weekend, "I made friends with my couch," not even getting up to put in a load of laundry. Her stressful work week, in combination with the cumulative effect of months of dismal weather, defeated any house-cleaning ambitions she may have had.

It is a different story with the redoubtable Mrs. R, a member of the generation dubbed "the Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw. This generation lived through the Great Depression as children. As young men they went to fight fascism. Many young women, like the fabled Rosie the Riveter, went into the defense industries. Women filled the jobs that men had held before they went off to World War II. When the young men returned, they took back the jobs, married the young women, moved to the suburbs and got busy starting the Baby Boom Generation.

My sister once told me she noticed that when a bush was obscuring a stop sign or broken glass was endangering visitors to a public park, it was invariably a member of the Greatest Generation who put things to rights. They expected no reward or praise; they simply did what any good citizen would do. And should do, as they would tell you.

Last week I saw Mrs. R in the Keene post office, where, in her characteristic clear-eyed and direct manner, she was addressing a former town official, a member of the Baby Boom Generation.

"John!" she said. She didn't call him "young fellow," but I could hear it in her voice. "Do you want to make 20 cents?"

John laughed and waited to hear what was coming next.

"Along Hulls Falls Road, down the bank, there are four blue beer cans in the gully. I would climb down and get them myself, but the bank is still snowy, and your wife will be angry with me if I attempt it. So, if you would like to make 20 cents-"

John did not literally say, "Yes, ma'am," but he might as well have. His smile was respectful as he told Mrs. R that yes, he would certainly remove the beer cans.

I thought this was funny, since we Boomers are not exactly spring chickens ourselves, and some of us would have second thoughts about sliding down a slippery bank to pick up litter. Mrs. R, however, is known for her citizenship, which includes, among other good works, collecting the trash along her walking route. John knew that if those beer cans remained in the gully, Mrs. R would probably make good on her implicit threat to go down and get them.

Maybe he retrieved them himself. I hope he found someone from Generation X or a Millennial to do it.

Have a good week.



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