Oh, Darn


When my mother found something particularly funny or helpful in the newspaper, she would clip it out and post it to the refrigerator where it would remain for family and visitors to read until the paper yellowed and the edges curled and, eventually, the piece's significance would be forgotten. Mom would put up Erma Bombeck columns. Recipes she wanted to try. Comic strips.

One Hi and Lois strip has remained in my memory for thirty-six years: In the first frame, Hi hands his wife a sock and tells her that it needs to be darned. Lois takes the sock in the second frame, and studies it intently. In the final frame, Lois throws the sock into the trash can with the words, "Oh, darn."

My mom laughed out loud when she read the strip. Of course, I didn't understand.
* * *
A thirteen-mile bike trail cuts diagonally through my village, running along an old Conrail track behind houses, between farms and swampland, and through a wooded section, dark and inviting. I can buy eggs on the trail. Organic produce. Local wine.

Deer occasionally pause on the trail, standing stock still and staring. Cardinals flit between branches of the trees. I pass other bikers, dog walkers, joggers, and a man on a recumbent bike who is missing one leg. I pass the pawpaw tree from which I have picked pear-sized fruits. I pass hickory trees, walnut trees, wild apple and crabapple trees, and, yes, I confess to having harvested the fruits from each of these as well.
On the trail, I smell wild grapes as they ripen and fade into autumn. I see the magnificent bald-hornets' nest, all whorls and arches, strength and industry.

Then too, there is the landfill, first detected by the smell, a smell so different and out of place in this arena of flowing water, blooming flowers and fields. The smell is overpowering. I pedal faster just to get past.

I hear the landfill next: the sound of gigantic dump trucks driving in and up a path flattened by too much use while turkey vultures and seagulls perch from cell phone towers surveying the scene below. 

Finally, just as I prepare to cross the street, the landfill comes into view.

It's a massive mountain, made up in part of what I've discarded. Every day as I pass, it reminds me of what I've thrown away; of how much I willingly waste.

I have oh, darned my way through too many things, discarding the worn for something shiny and new, pretending to have regrets when actually feeling relief and pleasure at the anticipation of a replacement. But the sheen wears off and eventually what is new becomes old and I am left to decide: Shall I repair it or shall I throw it away?
* * *
My mother had a darning egg. It was smooth and wooden and full of mystery and purpose. I darn with a rock tucked into the heel of the sock I'm repairing.

People would think I'm crazy if they knew I darned socks: It's simple enough to run to Target to pick up new ones, easy enough to throw away the old socks, mainly in good condition, save the one small hole worn through at the heel.

But every day as I bike, I'm confronted by my wastefulness.

And so I darn.

I darn badly, making mistakes as I go, frustrated with myself because girls as young as six once knew how to handle needle and thread.

But still, I darn.
* * *
Today, I understand that comic strip clipped and posted to the refrigerator. Every year, my mother made wardrobes for four children. Every year still, she makes jelly and jam, puts up peaches and pears, green beans and carrots and corn. My mom refinishes furniture. Braids rugs. Strips wallpaper. Makes quilts and, yes, even dishes. In making a home, my mom is industrious, doing for herself and her family what is too easily outsourced today. There's quite an honor in that, an honor that, for far too long, we've overlooked.

And so I darn.


Labels: ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Oh, Darn

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oh, Darn


When my mother found something particularly funny or helpful in the newspaper, she would clip it out and post it to the refrigerator where it would remain for family and visitors to read until the paper yellowed and the edges curled and, eventually, the piece's significance would be forgotten. Mom would put up Erma Bombeck columns. Recipes she wanted to try. Comic strips.

One Hi and Lois strip has remained in my memory for thirty-six years: In the first frame, Hi hands his wife a sock and tells her that it needs to be darned. Lois takes the sock in the second frame, and studies it intently. In the final frame, Lois throws the sock into the trash can with the words, "Oh, darn."

My mom laughed out loud when she read the strip. Of course, I didn't understand.
* * *
A thirteen-mile bike trail cuts diagonally through my village, running along an old Conrail track behind houses, between farms and swampland, and through a wooded section, dark and inviting. I can buy eggs on the trail. Organic produce. Local wine.

Deer occasionally pause on the trail, standing stock still and staring. Cardinals flit between branches of the trees. I pass other bikers, dog walkers, joggers, and a man on a recumbent bike who is missing one leg. I pass the pawpaw tree from which I have picked pear-sized fruits. I pass hickory trees, walnut trees, wild apple and crabapple trees, and, yes, I confess to having harvested the fruits from each of these as well.
On the trail, I smell wild grapes as they ripen and fade into autumn. I see the magnificent bald-hornets' nest, all whorls and arches, strength and industry.

Then too, there is the landfill, first detected by the smell, a smell so different and out of place in this arena of flowing water, blooming flowers and fields. The smell is overpowering. I pedal faster just to get past.

I hear the landfill next: the sound of gigantic dump trucks driving in and up a path flattened by too much use while turkey vultures and seagulls perch from cell phone towers surveying the scene below. 

Finally, just as I prepare to cross the street, the landfill comes into view.

It's a massive mountain, made up in part of what I've discarded. Every day as I pass, it reminds me of what I've thrown away; of how much I willingly waste.

I have oh, darned my way through too many things, discarding the worn for something shiny and new, pretending to have regrets when actually feeling relief and pleasure at the anticipation of a replacement. But the sheen wears off and eventually what is new becomes old and I am left to decide: Shall I repair it or shall I throw it away?
* * *
My mother had a darning egg. It was smooth and wooden and full of mystery and purpose. I darn with a rock tucked into the heel of the sock I'm repairing.

People would think I'm crazy if they knew I darned socks: It's simple enough to run to Target to pick up new ones, easy enough to throw away the old socks, mainly in good condition, save the one small hole worn through at the heel.

But every day as I bike, I'm confronted by my wastefulness.

And so I darn.

I darn badly, making mistakes as I go, frustrated with myself because girls as young as six once knew how to handle needle and thread.

But still, I darn.
* * *
Today, I understand that comic strip clipped and posted to the refrigerator. Every year, my mother made wardrobes for four children. Every year still, she makes jelly and jam, puts up peaches and pears, green beans and carrots and corn. My mom refinishes furniture. Braids rugs. Strips wallpaper. Makes quilts and, yes, even dishes. In making a home, my mom is industrious, doing for herself and her family what is too easily outsourced today. There's quite an honor in that, an honor that, for far too long, we've overlooked.

And so I darn.


Labels: ,

7 Comments:

At October 17, 2013 at 5:12 PM , Anonymous lisa thomson said...

I feel the same way, Kelly. I can't darn a sock but I wish I could. I remember my grandmother darning socks when she would come look after us. We live in a disposable world. Even our clothes are made of cheaper fabric now, and so we don't feel as bad about chucking it. IF we only wore silk and wool we would likely think twice about throwing things out.

 
At October 18, 2013 at 4:47 PM , Anonymous injaynesworld said...

This is lovely, Kelly. As is everything you write. I can relate. I just this week got rid of my 32" circa 1993 television. About six years ago when the picture tube went out, I paid $400 to get it fixed rather than buy a new one for just the reasons you state. Friends thought I was nuts, but the TV worked great for a total of 20 years and I would have kept it forever, if it didn't finally go kaput a week ago. So now I have a new flat screen. I hope it lasts as long.

 
At October 18, 2013 at 5:47 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks for reading, Lisa!

 
At October 18, 2013 at 5:48 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks, Jayne! We have one of those old TVs too - Here's hoping it lasts...

 
At October 19, 2013 at 4:51 AM , Blogger j umbaugh said...

I love the lessons that begin with something simple, then goes full circle, all tied up in a neat package.

 
At October 24, 2013 at 6:52 PM , Blogger Anna Grace said...

I relate to this feeling, it seems that more and more of us do. My nana always said "Waste not want not" and that thought often comes to my mind.

It's hard to put a finger on but for me I think it's about feeling more connected to my life, to the cycles of the seasons ... and knowing the value of things, like socks :)

I love growing a garden, having a compost pile and recycling food into the earth instead of throwing it into the trash. I also wish I had more time for these things.

This was a beautifully written post, thank you!

 
At October 26, 2013 at 5:59 PM , Anonymous Dee Rayson said...

What a lovely message, Kelly. The way you tied it all together was wonderful. At first I wondered how darning socks had relevance to the beauty of your bike ride, but you sure brought it home. Well done. I agree with your sentiments entirely, unfortunately that has turned me into an incessant hoarder.

 

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