Wednesday, November 15, 2017


If you grew up, as I did, with parents who had lived through the Depression, you took it as a given that everything you had could be mended or reused: socks darned, stock boiled, fat rendered, remnants of fabric quilted, slivers of soap reconstituted, worn woolens unraveled and re-knitted, food composted or fed to the chickens and pigs, shoes resoled, appliances mended until they finally, for you at least, gave up the ghost.  As a child, I lived on the cusp of change; the age of disposability was dawning, bright, shiny and plastic-wrapped, while at the same time, the rag and bone man still rode the streets with his horse and cart, and Gypsies called by to sharpen knives, mend pots and pans, and take the metal even my parents no longer found a function for.  Even as a child I was torn between the pleasure of the old ways and the lure of the New Advertised World.  I sometimes chafed at my older parents’ thrift, finding it excessive and even embarrassing.  Today they'd be domestic recycling role models.

I’m pretty sure they never once said the word “recycling” though.  The art of re-use was simply a reflex.  The number of things you had was smaller, and you knew its value, both for yourself and your family, and when you’d exhausted an object’s use, it moved on to those who could still make a living by it.  In the world of material karma, second, third, or fourth lives abounded.  

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