We were a comfortable upper-middle-class midwestern family living in a desirable suburb in a four-bedroom, three-bath ranch house on a one-acre lot with a built-in pool in the backyard.

Mom had a peculiar habit.  Every time we brought home takeout fast food, the first thing she would do was reach into the bag, take out the napkins and slip them into our napkin holder.

She was descended from thrifty Ohio German farmers.  Growing up during a depression (the first one) was another explanation for her seemingly irrational, compulsive behavior.  Why bother with saving napkins when we were obviously well off? 

Because it saves money, Mom replied.  Regardless of your circumstances, you always try to save money. 

Every other week or so, I walk down the hill and treat myself to a stuffed, scrumptious $7 al pastor burrito, to go.  The past two times I’ve had one, I’ve done it.  It was automatic, an impulse rising from my collective subconscious spurred by my economic circumstances.

I saved the napkins.

Okay, Mom.  I get it.  Every little bit helps.  I use less of any liquid, whether it’s laundry detergent, hand soap or shampoo.  I use one paper towel at a time.  And from now on, I will save the napkins out of the takeout bag.

We are doing this as an economy and a culture.  We are trying to use less, save more, waste nothing and appreciate what we have, despite our economic hardships.

We are all napkin savers, now.