The current energy crisis has brought out the Yankee in me, pushing aside the happy-go-lucky Irish half for a while. As we turn off the lights and limit car use, it makes me think back to the times when we were always either doing without or saving stuff in World War II. And, for some reason, it was fun! 

As a kid I was most aware of our rationed access to sugar and was very careful to use it sparingly, although now I don’t quite understand how sugar figured into the war effort.

We’re so spoiled these days that it’s hard to stir up enthusiasm over pitching in for the common good. Of course, the price of gas gets our attention, big time. No longer do we drop into Brattleboro for little errands. We combine as many chores as possible whenever we leave Brookline: grocery shopping, church, doctors’ appointments. There was a time when we would think nothing of driving to the market for a loaf of bread or a quart of milk. Not any more.

Recently I’ve revived an old practice from the days when we were seriously pinching pennies. When the dishwasher is through rinsing, open the door and let the dishes air dry. And they do say that the dishwasher is a more efficient use of electricity and water than hand washing. I do hang laundry to dry on the line when it’s a beautiful sunny, windy day, mostly because it smells so good. Back in the days when I had four tots and no clothes dryer, it wasn’t so romantic.

I look at the outfits today’s teens are wearing. First of all, the sneakers cost what we used to pay for the rent and groceries for one week. And I love it that brand new jeans are made to look, not only bleached out, ragged and dirty, but too small. Remember hand-me-downs? When is the last time I darned a sock? When we got our first TV, we were the last on the block to have one, and then last on the block to have color. Now we have several. Ditto computers! Remember the rich people who had more than one phone in the house? Or more than one car? Now we can put the computers and phones in our too-small jean pockets.

When we traveled it was by train or bus; only our well-to-do friends went by air, or boat. My aunt was a big deal when she went to Europe on the HMS Queen Mary at a time when the friendly skies were pretty empty. Niagara Falls was a thrilling visit and all we did was drive all day to look at a really big waterfall.

There’s something noble about doing with less when the cause is clear. We had that during the aforementioned war. Maybe it was because we believed that that war was a righteous cause and we were happy to do with a little less gas in the tank for the privilege being able to take part.

How things change when you’re not looking.