A Post-War Primer on Mother Nature

vintage Better Homes and garden Books 1950s

By the time I was 5 years old, Mother Nature began supplanting Mother Goose in my curiosity.

Powerful Mother Nature could blow Mother Goose right out of the water…literally!

Even if old Mother Goose could make a cow jump over the moon, it was Mother Nature who made the moon spin around the earth in the first place.

I now knew about the man in the moon, and about the old lady who lived in a shoe; that black birds helped plants to grow, and that four and twenty of ‘em made a mighty fine pie. And, somehow even though the earth spun ‘round and ‘round, Jack and Jill could go up a hill, tumble-down, yet they would never ever fall off.

I was full of so many questions, about the environment; about things I heard, and felt, and saw.  But there were many questions even grown ups didn’t have an answer for, and even more questions they never seemed to ask.

Maternal Instincts

vintage illustrations of nature mother animals and young

Like my own mother, Mother Nature was trustworthy and reliable.

I could count on night always following day, summer always following winter, calm would follow storms. I had breakfast at breakfast time; lunch at lunchtime; dinner at dinnertime.

The big world could seem random and arbitrary so it was precisely the predictability, the certainty, the sheer regularity of Mother Nature, that like my own Mother, soothed me.

vintage illustration childrens school book 1940s

Vintage children’s school book “All Around Us”

So it was that when the leaves turned crimson and gold, it meant the yellow school bus would stop on our corner to take my brother to school; that when the purple crocuses first started poking out of the ground, it would soon be my march birthday. Now that the azalea bush started bursting forth its dazzling pink color, it could only mean it was time for Mothers Day.

It also meant it was time to gear up for gardening.


Earth Science

vintage childrens book illustration 1960 suburbia gardening children raking

There was something primal about the feel of sun-warmed soil. Thrusting my hands into the loamy garden soil warmed by the spring sun, I could actually feel the earth itself.

Sifting it through my hands I’d see the essential elements of the earth, bits of decaying plant matter, tiny particles of pebbles and rocks, maybe billions of years old, filled with industrious earthworms digging their way through the ground-maybe even all the way to China! The grass sucked hungrily the moisture from the soil and spread lush green blades in the sunshine.

Next to me would be Mom, kneeling in the soil planting her gladioli bulbs. Buried deep into the earth, those small, onion like bulbs would somehow know just the right time to burst forth from the earth with flowered spikes of magnificently sculpted florets rising in lofty grandeur in the summer.

Using my little plastic watering can I’d helped to water the newly planted pansies, their smiling faces so open and trusting, stretching out their little roots in the carefully dug holes.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

vintage illustration nature bird feeding its young

Vintage children’s school Book “All Around Us”

Our spindly little saplings were growing as fast as I was, and now baby sparrows would be collecting in little groups on the branches, squeaking and chirping. On our shrubs, hungry green insects could be found greedily chewing and swallowing the leaves into their tiny bellies.

As Dad was busy spraying the perpetrators on the plants, down would come a bird, looking for something to eat. Spying what she was seeking, the Mama bird would happily fly away with the juicy green insect in her beak to feed to the baby birds.

The sweet smell of blooming French Lilacs that perfumed the air, blended with freshly spread fertilizer and the acrid aroma of the insecticides Melathione and Diazinon  gently wafting over from Dad’s tin atomizer sprayer.

He could mark his territory without even lifting a leg.

Mocking Bird

vintgage illustration 1950s happy Family in garden

Vintage children’s illustration from “The Happy Family”, A Little Golden Book 1955

These new miracle pesticides were right at home in this land of good humor and friendship. They belonged to pleasant living, and our right to enjoy them belonged to our American heritage of personal freedom.

American scientists were hard at work in the name of freedom. Man, they believed, should and could take over the management of the Mother Earth he lived on  and use it exclusively for what he regarded as mans higher purpose. His needs.

As the soft spring breeze carried the mist, the residual oil caressed my skin, the pesticide’s warming tingle, stimulated a healthy glow….my delicate skin tingling, and my little eyes tearing was Diazinon come to life.

The amalgam of scent so strong, its imprint would forever evoke spring. “Yes I can’t seem to forget you, your Diazinon stays on my mind,”  Dad hummed to himself.

Ah, pesticides, the subtlest form of communication between a man and nature.

Its aftermath, a lingering and memorable message.

Bye Bye Birdie

vintage childrens illustration baby bird feeding young 1950s

All day long, birds would come in the garden and fly away with the now caustically coated green insects.

Eventually, by summer’s end, the green plants would grow big and tall, but sadly, the baby birds  their bellies filled with the pesticides infused insects would never get to grow up at all.

vintgage nature illustrations from childrens schoolbook

The beauty of outdoors…the feeling of life around us…that was the spirit of modern living!


Excerpt from Defrosting The Cold War:Fallout From My Nuclear Family Copyright (©) 20012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved



One comment

  1. Pingback: Post War Pesticides on Parade | Envisioning The American Dream

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