“In the summertime we didn’t have shoes to wear,
But in the wintertime we’d all get a brand new pair,
From a mail-order catalog, money made from sellin’ a hog,
Daddy always managed to get the money somewhere.”
– “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn
With it being Christmastime, I’ve been reflecting on the inundation of the marketing and greed of the season. It might always baffle me as to how we as a society continue to be enamored with the acquisition of goods, when so little is actually required to be happy in this life. I think little children best illustrate this when they play with their new toys for all of a day or two, then move onto the next new and exciting thing, constantly shifting focus and rarely settling in on one thing that they truly find essential to their happiness. At some point, a child can only have so many dolls, Legos, games, etc. before all of these toys start to look the same and lose the excitement they once may have had. And so it goes with the holiday gift rush every year. There’s always a new item that everyone MUST HAVE, but if you were to interview those people in say, February or March, I’m going to bet that a good percentage of them have lost interest in that item and have moved on.
The lesson here is that familiar adage: The best things in life aren’t things / The best things in life are free
When I was listening to the audiobook of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” I took note of how Loretta Lynn describes her life in the hills of Kentucky, with very little by way of possessions, but with very much by way of love and experiencing life.
Growing up in a home without electricity or running water, Loretta’s childhood was unlike that of many Americans today (though it wasn’t all too uncommon for people of that age in that geographical location). Her life was simple. She took care of family and neighbors, she learned the lessons she needed to take care of herself and a family someday, and she found happiness and entertainment when with others. For fun there was music, story-telling, and community events. Her father was a miner, working extremely hard to provide what he could for his family. She learned the value of an honest day’s work, as well as that of a dollar.
Loretta married young, worked hard to keep up with her children and the house while her husband was working, and to this day still maintains her simple view on what is necessary in the world. Though her career has made her a lot of money, and the house she lives in is very beautiful, she has kept true to her roots as a Kentucky coal miner’s daughter.
I admire Loretta’s work, her songwriting and career, and her dedication to what is important in her life. Listening to this book helped me to see my life differently, re-evaluating what I deem as essential. I’d like to think that Loretta’s story helped me stay true to my own roots of simplicity. My parents did the best they could for us, as any good parent does, but we did not live extravagant lives…and I couldn’t be more grateful for that! Knowing I was raised in an honest home where we didn’t put on airs to be people we weren’t, or fluff our feathers in front of everyone trying to show off how great we were, or whatnot, is a big deal to me. It’s kept me simple today. Nothing physical means much to me. I don’t need a fancy car (mine is from 2000). I don’t need a fancy home (I have a 1 bedroom apartment). I don’t need fancy clothes (in fact, I refuse to wear clothes with name brands that show). I don’t need any of that stuff. What I do need is people in my life who I can depend on, who I love, and who love me back. I need my faith, some good books, some music, and a few flowers to grow. These things are what make me happy.
The book “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” (as well as the movie, with Sissy Spacek), is a great reminder of what life looked like in a simpler time, and shows just what is necessary for a good life. In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, and the cool down period afterward (which we are currently in), it is a great time to reflect on what is important to us, what we need to be happy, and perhaps – what we could do without.