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.
* * *
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
* * *
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.
so I darn.
Labels: Consumerism, Family