Being a kid can sometimes feel like those times when we mis-hear song lyrics. Like going along thinking Jimi Hendrix was singing, “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy” and being impressed at how ahead-of-its-time those lyrics were – and then somehow you figure out what everyone else seems to have known already, that he’s singing “while I kiss the sky.”
The other day, I took a couple safety pins out of a pair of pants and caught myself treating these pins with great care. Somehow, viewing safety pins and rubber bands and paperclips as a scarce commodity has endured from my childhood. In that earlier world of mine, certain things showed up randomly and unreliably and therefore needed to be saved and watched over. Safety pins and rubber bands were useful, and paperclips I simply adored. With all of them, I wasn’t sure how they appeared in my house, and so paid particular attention to them when they did.
In A Walton Christmas, a package comes in the mail and Grandma Walton carefully unties the string and wraps it around the household ball of string, which was made of other string that had come their way. String was scarce and you didn’t pass up the chance to save it. In fact, that Christmas special confirmed what I already believed to be true, that there were certain things you couldn’t just go to the store and get. You had to wait for them to appear and then treat them with the greatest of care. (I did not grasp that the Waltons could have gone to the store and gotten string; they simply didn’t because it was the Depression and during the Depression you didn’t squander anything that came your way because that meant you didn’t have to go out and buy it.)
My grandparents lived through the Depression and my parents, siblings and I benefited from the frugal habits that helped them get through. It meant that, growing up, towels and sheets and pillowcases were considered usable as long as they weren’t yet falling apart. It meant that, if the elastic on your underpants was shot, you just made sure to wear them with pants and not a skirt. When I left home for college and other far-flung parts, I took with me some of the sheets and towels from my childhood because it meant no one would have to buy new ones. And that was good because, somehow, I didn’t realize you even really could buy these things.
Imagine my surprise and delight at the age of 33 when I complained about a particularly threadbare towel I swore I remembered from age 9, and Garth said, “So buy another one.”
‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy.