My grandmother’s name is Nellie Caroline Myer. In her prime she was a force to be reckoned with: tall, full-figured and bold. She loved a good hat, a pretty dress and fire-engine-red lipstick.
In the 1950s and ’60s, with the threat of nuclear war looming, Nellie stockpiled her basement with cans of tomatoes, tuna and bean salad. During the sugar shortage of the ’70s, she filled her cupboards with sugar: brown, refined and raw. When the energy crisis came, she became obsessed with keeping the needle of her Buick’s gas gauge above three-quarters of a tank.
Every other day she would wait in long lines to fuel up. My grandfather could never understand this, and one day he’d had enough. “My goodness, Nellie,” he said. “Do we really need to wait in line for gas again? We’ve got three-quarters of a tank.”