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09 October 2008

Doomsaying I just got the weirdest/vaguely scary email from my mother. [More:]Basically it said:

Stew, we're headed out to California tomorrow. Your sister has our itinerary if you need us. The country is falling apart; actually, the whole world is. There is no longer a banking center in Charlotte. You might lose your job if it gets worse. I want you to know that your stepfather and I stand behind you all the way, and if you need to, you can move home. We have the resources to take care of the whole family. And your grandmother lived through the worst depression ever. I just wanted to say this because you sounded really down the last time we talked. Get out and take a walk every day!

Is it just me, or would that freak you out too?
Wow. You can move in with me if you don't want to move in with your very strange mom.
posted by jessamyn 09 October | 19:57
That's what I love about you, Jessamyn!
posted by Stewriffic 09 October | 19:59
Has she dug a bunker yet? and stocked with canned food? If so tell her to make sure she takes a can opener, too. That bunker won't be much good without a can opener. You heard it here first.
posted by jonmc 09 October | 19:59
Awww. I think it's very sweet. Slightly paranoid, yes, but in that fairly benign "We're your parents and it's our job to take care of you" sort of way.
posted by occhiblu 09 October | 20:00
No bunker, but I bet my grandma has enough home canned food to last the entire year for all of my extended family. Oh, and they do go to Costco an awful lot. I do love my mom, but she is *very* strange sometimes. I have a feeling she'd been drinking.
posted by Stewriffic 09 October | 20:01
I didn't think it was too bad at all. You can tell she cares for you.

My mom would have told me to take a walk and drink lots of water and make sure you get sun on your head because Vitamin D is a good thing! It's enough to drive you batty, but I tolerate it, and even welcome it. She wants me to be happy and healthy.
posted by LoriFLA 09 October | 20:04
It sounds sort of cute. Even drunk, I don't think my mother would want me to move back in.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 09 October | 20:04
There really is a bunker mentality these days. But it's nice of her to let you know she is there for you.
posted by MonkeyButter 09 October | 20:06
There really is a bunker mentality these days.

Maybe, but I'm no poorer now than I was two months ago. Never before have i been so grateful to be a renter who has no money to invest.
posted by jonmc 09 October | 20:10
It's very sweet, that's for sure. I'm lucky to have parents who are willing and able to make such an offer. I don't mean to belittle that. She has been begging me to move back home (not to their house, but back to the area) for over 10 years now, so that doesn't come as much of a surprise.

The tone of the email was what alarmed me. It's very paranoid. The funding for my job doesn't depend on people being able to spend; if anything, it's the opposite.
posted by Stewriffic 09 October | 20:16
As a mom of adults myself, I can kinda understand it. She's comforting herself by offering help to you, even tho you don't need it. And moms worry whether or not the worry is logical.
posted by bunnyfire 09 October | 20:23
I'm worried about getting an email from my very strange mom announcing that they're coming to live with me.
posted by scody 09 October | 20:32
I think it's pretty nice. At first I read it as a statement that they were bugging out to hole up in California. On reread, it seems as though it was a planned trip. So the rest is really just a rumination on how things are and an attempt to reassure. And when my mom's had a couple glasses of wine, I sometimes get similarly rambling emails. And I love them. And I send some like that, too. So, no, they're just letting you know that our lifestyles really do have to change drastically, they have plans to take care of the family, not freeze you out. And that's lovely, and not something everyone can count on, so good on them.
posted by Miko 09 October | 20:51
Although it is a sweet sentiment...yeah, that would freak me out too.
posted by divka 09 October | 20:55
they're just letting you know that IF, IF, IF our lifestyles really do have to change drastically,

I left out an important word!

posted by Miko 09 October | 21:15
You might lose your job if it gets worse.
I just wanted to say this because you sounded really down the last time we talked.

*waves* Hi, Mom! Thanks for the pep talk!

Oh, holy cats, that's not my mom. Sounds like her, though.

Seriously, that's the kind of stream-of-consciousness talk my mother engages in. If your parents are like my mother, the subjects may not be connected in a straightforward linear fashion, but just loosely connected bits of "oh, yeah, I meant to tell you" family stuff mixed in with "crazy ole world, isn't it?" anecdotes and some good old "we'll always be there for you" support.

Of course, you know best whether that's their communication style. I'm just saying that it sounds very familiar.

And it freaks me right the hell out when my mother does it.
posted by Elsa 09 October | 21:25
i can see how it may freak you, but i think it's adorable.
It's like an card that says:

i wish i had apocalypse vouchers.
i should make a line of coupons and greeting cards.

Anyone steal the idea out there, note the time and date stamp and get me royalties.
posted by ethylene 09 October | 21:36
Is it just me, or is moving from the South to California a little backwards? Isn't it more expensive to live out there?

I've got family on the East Coast, and they make more than me, but have a much higer cost of living. My nightmare is all of them coming to live with me after the sea level rises and their homes are underwater.* That's when I'll be in the tropical zone.

I don't know enough to say you're right to be worried, but it would kind of freak me out, too.

*not actually betting on this, you understand.
posted by lysdexic 09 October | 22:01
Thing is, I listened to my grandparents talk about the depression, and I know they had to do stuff like that (moving in with relatives, communal pooling of income/food supply), and I know my parents grew up hearing all about that from their it's really not that abstract to them. We've grown up in a post-baby-boom, post-50s-prosperity time that makes us think we'll always be entitled to our own house, always have our own subsistence-or-better incomes. They grew up in a time when that was not possible. I understand their need to say "we won't be the kind of family that changed the locks, or moved, and left no forwarding address." Because some people were, and our grandparents could remember it.
posted by Miko 09 October | 22:10
Yeah, they're going on a trip to California, not moving. I live in NC (hence the reference), and they live in Michigan.

I understand their need to say "we won't be the kind of family that changed the locks, or moved, and left no forwarding address." Because some people were, and our grandparents could remember it.

My parents can afford to be generous, and only sometimes try to manipulate me with that fact. I am indeed lucky.

Miko, I've heard all of those stories too. My grandma is one of the people I most admire in life, and I've adopted many of her frugal habits. Like crocheting plastic bags into doormats. Luckily I didn't develop the compulsion to buy a bunch of crap at garage sales, though. Poor Gram had so much stuff jammed into her little house that when she moved it was an enormous and emotional ordeal.
posted by Stewriffic 09 October | 22:19
Yeah, I bet a lot of our grandparents had kitchen drawers full of paper bags, folded mostly-clean tinfoil, sugar packets, coffee stirrers, duck sauce and soy sauce packets, creamers, wet-naps, and marginally reusable ziplocs. There's a reason for that, and it's not that they were squirrely. They just lived through something that made them afraid, ever, to waste. You might need that one day.
posted by Miko 09 October | 22:33
Hey, she taught me well. I nipped 6 different cans of soda from a training today.
posted by Stewriffic 09 October | 22:45
Hey Stewrific? Are you my long-lost brother? Because I could have sworn that email was from my mom...!
posted by TrishaLynn 09 October | 22:51
Yeah, that's awesome of her. I don't know how paranoid she's being, by the way: these are troubled times.
posted by eamondaly 09 October | 22:54
Apparently, i've lived through the depression, so far, or maybe it was all that mentally preparing for post apocalyptic life i did as a child.
Or maybe i just reuse, recycle.
Or maybe i'm just poor.
Or maybe it's reactionary childhood trauma.

Or maybe i'm saying i reuse plastic bags and foil.
Hey, they get sanitized, germ freaks.

All i'm saying is i haven't had to buy either for
over four or five years?!
Wow, that sounds extreme, but you have to understand, my mom gives me lots of things in plastic bags (like she'll give me a pack of stamps or freebie pens, but it's in a fresh plastic bag) and it is/was a pretty big honking roll of foil.
Still, that can't be right. i must have bought foil at least once since.

Wait. Ok. All i'm saying is no one should save or use those packets of generic soy sauce. It's not real soy sauce.
posted by ethylene 09 October | 23:07
Weird and very sweet. Mom loves you.
posted by arse_hat 09 October | 23:12
Hey Stewrific? Are you my long-lost brother?

Sister, maybe. There actually are a couple of y'all out there. But not with your name. :-)

Wait. Ok. All i'm saying is no one should save or use those packets of generic soy sauce. It's not real soy sauce.

I'm with you 100% on this. Texas Pete packets, on the other hand...

Also, I'm feeling slightly guilty, since it is indeed a touching and sincere offer. But my GOD does she also drive me crazy! Love you, Mom!
posted by Stewriffic 09 October | 23:26
There really is a bunker mentality these days.
I wouldn't know anything about that.
posted by Ardiril 09 October | 23:30
There is no longer a banking center in Charlotte.

That's an odd comment. Charlotte is arguably a bigger banking center relative to other cities now than it was before. If Wachovia had gone to Citi, it would've been the dominate banking center (because Citi was going to move the retail bank HQ to Charlotte).
posted by mullacc 09 October | 23:43
err. If it's not soy sauce, what is it?
posted by Zack_Replica 09 October | 23:59
Jennifer 8. Lee discusses what it is in her book that I can't remember the name of, the one about American Chinese food. The stuff in the packets isn't really soy sauce, because it's not made with soy. I don't care if the economy collapses and I have to move back in with my parents against their will, I will never stop being devoted through and through to Kikkoman.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 10 October | 00:05
It's basically caramel coloring, sodium and preservatives.
It's cheap imitation crap. Read labels.
The duck sauce is, like, corn syrup and assorted additives.
posted by ethylene 10 October | 00:10
posted by arse_hat 10 October | 00:55
i will never tired of that, hat.
i remember losing it, and then finding it again on your site.
i was ever so grateful.
posted by ethylene 10 October | 01:04
Soy sauce isn't made from soybeans? Maybe some, but Kikkoman's US plant is in the next county because this (southern Wisconsin) is some good soybean growing country. (OK, it appears that Kari-Out contains no soy, and that's one of the biggest restaurant packet makers.)

Amusing story. My church's former associate pastor took a job in Pennsylvania around 1985. In 1990 I was driving back to Wisconsin with my dad and my stuff from New York, and we stopped by their house and stayed for dinner, which turned out to be stir-fry. The Kikkoman came out, and I said something rather lame like "Glad to see you're still using Kikkoman!" Pastor replied something like "Family favorite", and in an aside to his now-teenaged boys, "This is from Wisconsin, you know."

One of the sons grimaced and said, "It's THAT OLD?!"
posted by stilicho 10 October | 02:15
Oh, wait, this is the scary letter thread.

I admit, I want to throw out something reassuring here. I don't expect Mad Max by next autumn or anything.

But there's definitely a great deal of pessimism out there. And if you read those financial pages regularly enough you've seen negative and bearish assessments before. These are different, markedly different. I can't remember anything quite like this since '87.

We survived '87 well enough and it turned out to be a glitch on the way to a record Dow in the 90s. This is looking more like '29. Or the 19th century panics. I've been telling people for a while that it disturbs me that the stuff we've been experiencing lately really does resemble those panics of old, from the laissez-faire era, when people being wiped out on a regular basis was just sort of assumed to be the (pun intended) default.

I'm worried that the optimistic outcome would be a decade of stagnant growth, like Japan last decade. Here we have experts predicting a contraction of GDP for the first time in half a century. This utter extinction of credit is going to have unforeseen effects here, there, and everywhere. This is going to be more like Argentina's crisis, with investment impossible and "good" credit no longer good enough. When that starts reaching into jobs and pocketbooks, man, watch out. I mean, I'd stockpile Lexapro if I were you.

My city has a GM plant, and it's been announced for closure by 2010. There's been an attempt to get the company to reconsider that hasn't been rejected yet. But I think this week the question became less whether GM will want to keep the plant and more will GM even continue to exist. It's on the verge of being dropped from the Dow, and they may sell their Detroit headquarters for the cash.

Meanwhile my family is entering its own perilous phase. I won't go into that. I hope that my parents can "restructure", that I can generate some real income in the next year, and other stuff goes our way despite the outside "swirled".

But I would ramp up those emergency savings funds, pay down credit, batten down the hatches and generally think twice. Yeah, that's going to "help" the recession. But it's still my advice.
posted by stilicho 10 October | 02:37
Yeah, I bet a lot of our grandparents had kitchen drawers full of paper bags

My mother told me that she has made an arrangement with her next door neighbor, in case of her death, to use the key she gave her to come in and throw out all the supermarket bags that fill not just a cabinet, but her dishwasher.
posted by StickyCarpet 10 October | 10:24
I woke up with pain in my hamstrings. || Dolphin Leaps On Board