“There Was So Much Love That Ultimately We Decided to Live Together.” A Mom of Two on Multi-Generational Living and Making a Better World for Her Kids.
Name: Liz Beyer-Partin
Location: Lackawanna, NY
How many people regularly eat together in your home? 5: Liz; her husband, Hezron; her mother, Mary; Emslie (5); and Bruce (19 months).
Liz lives outside of Buffalo, New York, with her husband, Hezron; their two children, Emslie and Bruce; and her mother, Mary — a multi-generational living arrangement that Liz grew up with herself. When it came time for Liz to start a family of her own, living under one roof (in a two-family house) just made sense. For Liz, this sense of closeness is more important now than ever.
We recently spoke with Liz about the living arrangement she wouldn’t change for the world, how she’s teaching her kids to stand up to injustice, and the simple joys of “sautéing the hell out of” a head of cabbage.
Can you share the story behind your home?
In the early ’80s, my dad [Bruce] bought an old warehouse and completely renovated it to have his workshop downstairs and a large loft/living space upstairs. His parents, who were almost 90 years old at the time, moved in. When they passed, that apartment was available so when I got older and met my husband, we moved into that space. When we got pregnant with our first child, we discussed leaving, but my parents were prepping meals, watching the baby next door while I showered, and just taking care of us. There was so much love that ultimately we decided we wanted to live together and help each other. When my dad retired, we didn’t need the workshop anymore, so we bought this two-family house together instead.
My father passed away last April. The last few months of his life were really difficult, so having this type of living arrangement was probably the best the situation could have been. I was able to do all the cooking when my dad was falling ill. It was one less thing for my mom to worry about. Especially right now, I can’t imagine my mom being all alone without us and the kids. I’m so thankful we are able to cook and eat and be together right now.
Especially with all that’s going on, how have you and your family been affected by the events of the past few weeks?
My dad was a draft resister during the American war in Vietnam and a life-long activist, so I attended my first picket line by the age of 18 months. Throughout my life I have attended nearly 50 rallies for many different causes including social, economic, reproductive, and racial justice. My parents always spoke with me about current events and what was going on throughout the world and kept me politically involved. I promised myself I would one day do the the same for my children.
My husband and I met in 2013 and even though I grew up and lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood, attended public city schools, and had progressive parents, I began to realize more and more that people treated my husband differently than I had ever experienced. We would go grocery shopping together, and suddenly we were being followed by security guards or store workers. When we made the decision to have children together, I promised myself that I would do the work every single day in order to ensure my children had a mother that fought for their equality and rights.
Do your kids understand what’s happening?
Our daughter, Emslie, has a magical childhood, but she is not sheltered from the reality of the world. She attended her first demonstration by the age of 2 (worn in a baby carrier on my back) for International Women’s Day, and a year later attended a demonstration in solidarity with young Americans across the nation calling for the end of gun violence. This year, just under a week ago, she attended a rally that was incredibly important to our family: a protest against police brutality and racism in our city and country. We have and will continue to have honest and age-appropriate conversations with our children, and continue to be politically involved in hopes of leaving them with a better world.
Amidst all of this, what has daily life looked like?
My husband is an essential worker. He’s a union plumber and steamfitter apprentice, so he’s still working. When he leaves for the day, my mom and I have coffee together while the kids play. Sometimes we get in the car just to go for a ride somewhere and not get out of the car. Then we usually eat together every night. If the kids are too tired, I’ll bring my mom a plate of food and we’ll eat separately.
Who usually cooks?
I’m the main person who cooks in the house, but my husband usually cooks on Saturdays. My mom loves to grill, so we do that together now that the weather is picking up. I grew up cooking with my parents. We used to have this mirror in the kitchen that I remember looking into and pretending it was a camera and that I was on a cooking show. My parents would always play along.
My dad taught me to create meals with what we have, which is a really good skill to have right now, throwing random things together and creating meals. We’ve been doing a lot of that. The other day I had a head of cabbage and an onion and some egg noodles and I was like okay? So I sautéed the hell out of the onion and the cabbage, seasoned it with salt and pepper and paprika, let that cook. Then mixed it with egg noodles and put a dollop of sour cream on top. It was so good.
You believe in “simple, slow living.” What does that mean to you?
We prefer to connect as a family rather than having the kids enrolled in all these activities and classes. I have a business where I source clothing from thrift stores and turn it into children’s clothes. I love to create projects that keep the kids’ hands busy too. The other day I cut out a heart from paper and punched holes in it and Emslie has been collecting wild flowers in the holes. It’s something to keep her brain active and her little fingers having fun. We appreciate our weekends together to slow down, take each day, get outside, and be together doing simple things. We try not to fill our plates too much.
The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you, about how they feed themselves and their families.We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.