“WHAT HAPPENED TO these napkins?” I asked my mother.

She replied that she was “economizing.” She had taken a pair of scissors and began cutting the napkins in half. For breakfast and lunch, we wouldn’t need a full napkin. It was wasteful, she explained, but for dinners we would get the standard size.

Cutting napkins in half became a family joke of sorts, and my mother’s two sisters were also wielding their trusty scissors in the name of common sense and thriftiness. I believe the sisters’ napkin-cutting practice began during President Carter’s bad economic times.

In early April, my cousin dropped me an email as the spread of the coronavirus was continuing its rapid acceleration. Paula admitted that she was “even cutting the napkins in half for lunch like the Lazous girls used to do ... Depression-era training coming in handy!”

Like some of you, we had parents who had grown up during the Great Depression.

Those were challenging times as about a quarter of the U.S. workforce was unemployed by 1930, and people were forced to adopt a new level of frugality.

Even years later, those lessons of Depression-era survival were something I noticed while spending Sunday dinners at my maternal grandparents’ home on Hubbard Street in Manchester.

“Mom, why does Papou have so many bags in there?!”

There was a tiny closet in the kitchen where my grandfather Andrew stored numerous paper bags he had received from shopping.

I would learn that waste, especially of food, wasn’t something my parents and grandparents liked to see.

My grandfather was a tailor and also had large collections of buttons, string, thread, elastic bands, etc.

Today, we’re experiencing the highest level of U.S. unemployment since the Great Depression, and many are struggling here in Nashua. Mayor Jim Donchess recently mentioned that about 7,600 Gate City residents are currently unemployed.

I’m not cutting my napkins in half yet, but like others, I’m “economizing.”

What will a post-pandemic economy look like?

Even our mayor isn’t sure.

“But I want to be very clear and honest with you. Things will not return to the way they were before COVID-19,” Donchess said during a press briefing.

“We will open, we will reopen, but many things will be changed, and we are not really sure how they will be changed.”

Joan Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at jtania512@gmail.com.