Since my grandmother was the last of her siblings to marry, she got all of her parents’ things and that’s how I ended up with them. But a ration book from the Second World War was not what I could have thought of finding. I ended up with three different sets of ration books: my great-grandparents and their youngest son, Uncle Frank.
Ration books were filled with stamps used to purchase certain goods such as sugar, processed foods, meats, flour, shoes, clothing, gas, coffee, and even tires. This was meant to ensure that everyone had a fair chance to obtain the necessities, keep rich folks from buying and hoarding, and keep people from being ripped off by prices being raised to meet high demand, as well as preventing a black market of goods.
My great-grandparents tried to be self-sufficient so the ration books look almost unused. Mostly they bought sugar and flour and splurged on clothing to help their daughters get married. They didn’t do without.
Ration books are a glimpse into a past I know I can scarcely imagine. I’m spoiled by being able to go to the store and buy what I need, however much I need of it. I can’t imagine being limited by stamps or signs proclaiming limits on how much I can buy.
But I think, even if they complained, they believed the sacrifices worth it to support the boys overseas.
These are my grandmother’s glasses. She died 35 years ago come May, but I still have them. It’s not easy to explain why you own the glasses of someone you never met. The only answer I can give is that I don’t really know but I love my grandmother. Then you get into the philosophical conundrum of loving someone deeply when you’ve never met or spoken to them.
There are the glasses the way they were meant to be used. On a face. On a face that I look at with love and fondness. I keep them precisely because they touched that face, were held in those hands and wiped on those hems. They are an image of a lovely imperfect woman captured better than by any camera.
All of my life I have been called “Little Hazel.” I am short and squat like her, stubborn like her, hate doctors just like she did. I even wear glasses like her, though without the horned rims. (I tried hers on. They don’t fit my face.) I wanted anything else but to be like her when I was younger. I was set on being my own person, which I am. But I find it an honor to be called “Little Hazel.”
I wish I had known her. I hope she would have been proud at the way I turned out. I always wanted the kindly grandmother. I spent more time than I care to admit being angry with her for not going to the doctor until her uterine cancer was so far gone. But I can’t hate her for being like me.