A New Deal

“Just around the corner,
There’s a rainbow in the sky.
So let’s have another cup of coffee.
And let’s have another piece of pie.”

Irving Berlin, 1932

The year 1932 was a national election year. For millions of depression-weary Americans, Herbert Hoover’s Republican presidency was doomed and on its way out. The Democrats nominated the debonair governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who pledged a “New Deal” for the American people. His confidence in the face of despair was infectious.

Roosevelt won by a landslide.

***

Every summer during the depression years, my grandparents would join the migrant workers in the fields for two or three weeks, picking fruits and vegetables. They made a little extra money doing this. Very little. However, as pickers they found ways to bring home boxes of seconds for home canning, at little or no cost.

I can remember my mother and my grandmother sweating in the kitchen for hours as they put up dozens of Mason jars full of preserves, jellies, pickles, beets, peaches and pears.

***

Living in a 1 1/2-bath flat with three single women had its unique problems. Yet I think of that brief period in my life as an exhilarating time.

Despite the darkness of the depression, menial jobs and a constant concern about money, our flat seemed to reverberate with unexplained gayety and friendly banter, especially between Agnes Peterson and my mother. They were great pals.

Both of them watched over their wistful new roommate, Emma Lindquist, as if she was a younger sister. And all three of the women watched over me.

I was doing lousy in school at the time. All three of them pounced on me. They saw to it that I started completing my homework. Period.

***

Emma had a broad face, luminous hazel eyes, a big nose, and an absolutely spectacular body. Most of the time she wore her long ash-blonde hair pulled softly back into a bun, spiked with an ornate gold pin that she said once belonged to her mother.

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