Last weekend, I had a day when I wished I were a guy named Larry.
Let me explain.
Years ago, when I had a job working for people with intellectual disabilities, I had two clients named Larry and Ronald.
Those aren’t really their names, of course, because that sort of thing is confidential, but, what you need to know is that Larry and Ronald were brothers, who lived together in a two-bedroom apartment. Their elderly mother had passed away recently and they lived among her many, many possessions, as well as their own and seemed to be managing their bachelor life just fine (other than eating nothing but hamburger patties for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week).
Larry, the younger brother, loved gadgets and machines. He (and his late mother) had collected record players (6) and cameras (they had everything from a Brownie to a Polaroid to a Disc camera to a Nikon SLR) and fans (29), among other things.
Larry liked to take things apart to see the insides of the gubbins and how they worked, so all of his many, many gadgets and machines were in bits and pieces. Larry was better at taking things apart than putting things back together, it seemed.
Anyhoo, to get to my point: one day, their landlord called and said that their apartment was a fire hazard because of all Larry’s and his mother’s junk, not to mention the 29 fans and the evolution of cameras and that we needed to get rid of some stuff pronto, or he would serve an eviction notice.
I hightailed it over to Larry and Ronald’s and began the process of trying to respectfully negotiate the removal of some of their treasures–some to storage, some to charity, some to garbage. These were adult men, after all. They had a right to live among their junk.
Heaven knows, I do.
But, only until the roof over your head is in jeopardy, I figure.
The conversations went something like this:
“Larry, do you think you need 5 vacuums?”
(Larry looked at me with sadness in his eyes.)
“Maybe you don’t need five, Larry. What do you think?”
“Well,” Larry stammered, “I need one.”
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
“And, Ronald needs one.”
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
“What if one breaks?”
So, I managed to give away 2 vacuums, leaving Larry and Ronald with 3 vacuums, which is apparently the perfect number for a 2-bedroom apartment and no one who vacuums.
Last weekend, I was wishing I had the foresight of Larry.
I killed the vacuum.
Dead, dead, dead.
And, there were no spares, no sirree.
But, I do live with Practical Man so after explaining how the vacuum had inexplicably, mysteriously perished on my watch after a mere 15 years or so (maybe I shouldn’t vacuum, whot, whot?), he set to work.
In the meantime, I gnashed my teeth about having to spend hundreds of dollars on something as boring as a new vacuum.
While I was grinding off my teeth, Practical Man went about breaking into the vacuum.
There were no screws to remove anything to get at the gubbins inside on account of it’s very vintage to want to re-use and fix things you already own.
Maybe you have wondered at times why I called this blog, “A Vintage Life?”
These are some of the times and the reasons, why.
I mean, seriously, have you ever seen the inside of a vacuum when it wasn’t in Larry’s apartment?
But, in our modern “green” society, practically no one fixes stuff anymore so why would you need to get inside something to look at what might be broken?
Y’know, unless you are Larry or Practical Man?
Practical Man somehow figured out how to break into the vacuum, without…um…breaking it.
I’m not even sure how that happened since it’s 98% plastic.
Crazy, mad, skills, that man has.
He came back from the workshop and announced that the motor was fine, it wasn’t the relay (I nodded and tried to pretend I vaguely recalled something about relays from O-level Physics) and that he figured it was the switch.
I could barely hear him over my gnashing of teeth.
Vacuum shopping – blah, blah, I thought again.
Maybe I could console myself over having to spend hard-earned moulah on a boring vacuum by buying a nice yellow one, I reasoned.
Have I mentioned that I’m the yin to Practical Man’s yang?
Meanwhile, he was looking online for switches but they were expensive and likely imported, meaning more expense and duty and exchange, etc etc.
So, he found an electronics vacuum shop (someone spent hours working on that name, I bet!) And, when we got there, he did something oh-so-vintage and awesome:
He pulled out the wiring schematic he had made for the vacuum:
Isn’t it adorable?
I love science-y people.
So do guys in vacuum repair shops who almost never, ever meet a bona-fide Practical Man.
The guy’s eyes practically fell out of his head when he saw the hand-drawn schematic.
And voila! New switch for $15.
Today, he installed the new switch, fixed something else that also turned out to be broken and the vacuum is now put back together and very much ALIVE.
Also: Not. Thrown. Away.
Also: Not a Boring, Blah Blah Blah Expense.
But, we still only have one.
Not one for Ronald, too.
Not one, in case one breaks.
Thank you, Practical Man.
I love things vintage, so you can imagine that I don’t always have an easy time getting rid of…um…stuff.
But, I am trying genuinely hard to downsize and have lately been embracing the experience as an opportunity to curate my…um…stuff down to the things that I truly, truly love, have space for, and use very frequently.
To quote Yoda (which seems apropos recently):
Donated, I did, the rhinoceros doo-dahs I used to collect.
Still, today as I was going through drawers in my craft room/office, I came upon a cache of old greeting cards we’ve received. I save (too) many cards because it feels like a way to make them worth at least some of the paper and glitter and money that people have invested in them. I’m writing this with glitter in my eyebrows and socks so trust me when I say there’s plenty of glitter and think about it: cards are a whole lot of environmental and fiscal energy that get read in under 10 seconds. Then later, you toss them away.
Except, if you’re me of course, who collects cards like a chipmunk collecting nuts for winter.
Insert “she’s a hoarder in denial” theme song here.
Anyway, I save them for a while (okay, fine, I found one today dated 2004) and then spend time with a big stack, while watching TV or listening to music. I cut out the bits I want to re-use with my pinking shears and fashion them into gift tags which I will (and do) use later.
(See, you thought I was just making this up, didn’t you?)
Some of you are snickering, I’m sure, but it really does make me feel as if I’ve extended the life of cards for at least one more round.
(Just pretend it’s wartime and we’re rationing stuff.)
Long ago (like, until last year), I used to save cards for sentimental reasons but I have eschewed sentimentality (or tried to) lately. I have been sensible and rational and only kept a sampling of cards from my years of teenage angst and youthful adventures (in the plastic Harrod’s bag I got while working on Oxford Street in London, the year I was 20.) Okay, fine, and I also have the Harvey’s hamburger wrapper my friend, Ugly Orange Sweater Guy, wrote me a letter on while I was languishing without Harvey’s in England, the year I was 16/17, but I’m sure you can agree that a letter written on a Harvey’s wrapper is an artifact well worth hoarding—I mean, preserving.
Anyhoo, while cutting and chopping, pinking and punching today, I found some treasures.
Two cards from my old friend, Little Julie, who became an angel to her husband and three, young sons, a few years ago, after cancer.
I could hear her voice as I read her words.
What a gift, I thought, and tried to blink away the tears.
Then, a card from my Grandma Helen, gone now for nearly a decade (I can’t believe it).
Signed the same way, her cards always were:
All my love back to you, Grandma.
It’s lovely how someone’s handwriting can immediately bring them to you. I wonder, in this age of so little handwriting anymore, will we have lost the chance to re-connect for those brief moments with people we have known and loved?
Then, cards from Practical Man’s German Mutti (now, sadly, living with dementia) and his Canadian mother, (cancer took her, too.)
I know that the um…stuff…is not the same as the person. I’ve watched the shows and chanted those mantras to myself. I’ve even photographed said stuff and then let it go.
But, I recently received the book my dad and aunt wrote about my great-grandparents. In it, there is a sweet and flirty letter my great-grandma wrote to my great-grandfather, while they were dating. There are tender and lonely letters my great-grandfather wrote to his wife and children while he was in the sanitorium for tuberculosis for two years. There is even the original hotel bill from my great-grandparents honeymoon night in Chicago in 1923:
Meaningless stuff, you might say.
I obviously come from a long line of hoarders, you might say.
And, you might be right.
But, to those angels who touched my shoulders today and other days: thank you for visiting.
We miss you.
Life has been fairly crummy lately.
As in, there seem to be crumbs everywhere I look.We do not discriminate in this house when it comes to crumbs. We’ve got your garden variety bread crumbs as well as an impressive variety of Microscopic bits of Unidentified Food Objects. They’re M-UFOs and I believe in them because it’s a regular Area 51 around here on the floors, counters and stove top.
I’m in the middle of ages now on top of having worn glasses since age seven, so my vision in any direction, let alone All The Way Down to the floor, is probably not great. But, my toes are excellent crumb finders.
So are visitors, like my mother or grandmother.
And, it’s that time of year when we are tracking the outside crumbs, inside. There are bits of lawn, twigs, and ants that get carried in on our shoes and clothes, even though one of us rarely ventures out into The Nature. Somehow, none of the inside crumbs get tracked outside, which seems unfair. What’s a few crumbs in a lawn or forest? Surely The Nature wouldn’t mind absorbing some of the mess.
Even when we think the house is clean, we seem to find bits of plastic, tomato cores, elastic bands, earring backings, pretzel bits (very sharp) and blobs of chocolate (I have no idea where those come from).
Then, there are the fancy bread crumbs–the ones from Practical Man’s bread. They always make my heart stop in case they are not crumbs but have, in fact, been left by a mouse.
Not to make the sesame seed industry mad, but they sort of look similar.
Black sesame seeds that look like mouse poo–and make my heart stop–are risky. Crumbs are a health risk around these parts, little did you know. because my body tends to think it needs to get woozy and keel over, anytime there’s even a slight whiff of adrenaline floating through my blood stream. And, fainting in a pile of crumbs while a mouse navigates triumphantly around my prone body, nibbling on the spoils, doesn’t sound like a fun day to me.
Rather crummy, in fact. Ha-ha!
Turns out that the exotic crumbs are just garden-variety toasted sesame seed crumbs. But, living in the middle of The Nature, as we do, we are always on the offensive, even with over a decade of mouse-free, country living. Practical Man has a rule: if critters don’t chip in on the mortgage, they’re not allowed in the house. He’s like Gibbs in NCIS, with his rules.
I’m not really afraid of mice, though. Now, if a cow tried to break in, whoa Nellie, I’d be screaming and hanging from the chandelier (I’m sure I’d find crumbs up there, too.) And, all those people who have mocked me for being afraid of cows would be sorry, lemme tell ya. They’d be talking about The Great Cow Attack of 2015 for years to come and apologizing for ever doubting me, don’t you worry.
We do clean up after ourselves, honestly, but the crumbs seem to multiply overnight. I swear, there are crumb fairies throwing parties (and crumbs) all over the place while we’re sleeping because seriously, we wiped off that counter top before we went to bed. The unidentified goo that has stuck to the moulding on the cupboard doors? And, what is that tomato sauce blob doing on the ceiling? It’s gotta be someone else’s fault. I mean, I’m hardly flinging peanut butter around the kitchen when I make toast, now am I?
Don’t answer that.
These are the times I wish we had children.
Or a pet.
I mean, that’s one of the great joys of children and animals, isn’t it? They give you someone to blame things on.
Like, why is there a cocoa powder trail from the baking cupboard to the couch?
Surely, it’s little Beverly’s fault.
My kingdom for a little Beverly!
Practical Man has a bevy of tools to deal with crumb invasions. He’s got sweeping tools and dusting tools, mopping tools and wiping tools. Maybe I don’t know how to use them properly. My irregular attempts at crumb removal only seem to spread them around in a broader, finer layer.
Ashes to ashes, crumbs to dust.
Sometimes, we briefly delude ourselves that we are getting a handle on the crumb situation. That all the sweeping and dusting, mopping and wiping is making headway on the invasion. Surely, all our efforts must be worth something, aren’t they?
Last night, I found crumbs in my bra.
That is to say: there were M-UFOs in my Area 51.