I was raised under the influence of a couple of generations of Americans who never wasted an empty Folger’s coffee can, a King Edward’s cigar box, or a worn-out suitcase.
Container Store? Ha!
There was no Container Store back then, or not one I was aware of. Walmart might have existed, but only in Arkansas. Target? Never heard of it. We had Safeway for the groceries, Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime for the odds and ends, K-Mart or Gibson’s Discount for the bargains, and Texaco for the gas.
The people I followed onto the planet would not have known what to do with a Container Store. They had containers they had gotten as a bonus for the product bought. Take the Folger’s can for instance. My Mom used it to pour grease into after she had fried up dinner. Dad used them for old bolts and nuts and such. He was a mechanic. Just don’t put the wrong thing in the wrong can. He has standards. Little Granddad, my dad’s dad, used it for a spittoon. He was a chewer of Red Man chewing tobacco.
Little Granddad smoked one King Edward cigar box worth of cigars per year. Mom bought him the box each Christmas and he would make it last until the next Christmas. Once a cigar box (which was not wooden, but cardboard) was empty, it may become a jewelry box, a box for pretty rocks or seashells, or a container of important documents and sentimental memorabilia.
As for the old hard-sided suitcase, Little Granddad essentially had the rest of his world tucked away in there. He was not a traveling man, per se, but he was ready to go whenever you were. He died in 1986 at the age of 87. Yes, if you are doing the math, he was born in 1899. My Dad, his only son, teased him that he was a year older than time. After his death, I got a chance to rummage through that old suitcase where I found government papers, licenses, a pocket knife, a couple of white dress shirts, an old wallet, keys to God-knows-what, and other things that Dad might say “didn’t amount to a hill of beans” unless, of course, you were his grandson.
In my soul, these people and the others whose influence shined on me like the sun, moon, and stars of heaven, are timeless and as here with me in absentia as they ever were in the flesh. I wear them in my features, feel them in my bones, and keep them in a King Edward’s cigar box in my soul.
Excuse me while I remember them
I miss the people who made the most of little things and never felt cheated by not having better options. They used their brains and their brawn and made it work. They came through things like the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, or their parents did. They fixed their own cars, they painted their own houses, they mowed their own lawns, and they kept an eye out for the feeble and widowed. They did their bit all week long and then scrubbed up, dressed up, and worshiped on Sunday.
Those were my people.
Mom made a hot lunch almost every day, put it on tin plates, covered with foil, put iced tea in mason jars with screwed-on lids, and brought it to the shop where Dad, Big Granddad (when he wasn’t busy ministering somewhere else, he ministered to us by pitching in at Dad’s shop), Uncle Troy (to me, a brother in so many ways), and I were toiling away on alternators, starters, and batteries. Then, Mom sat behind the desk in Dad’s office and worked on the books before heading home to prepare dinner.
We grease monkeys had to scrub the day’s work from under our fingernails and out of the callouses on our hands and fingers. We wore Polyester pants because battery acid will eat blue jeans right off you by the day’s end. We hunted, fished, and played football, or flies-and-skinners in available fields of grass and empty parking lots.
I miss those people, times, and places. They were the can-do generations. They would be flabbergasted at anyone spending seven bucks on a cup of coffee.
I can hear my dad now.
“Seven bucks??? It doesn’t even come in a can! I wouldn’t give you a plugged nickel for it.”
I never actually saw a plugged nickel but I had the sense they weren’t worth a nickel.
Also, speaking of coffee, there will never be a better cup of coffee than the first one. I was seven years old or thereabouts. Dad poured us each a cup of black coffee and opened a bag of Pecan Sandies, which he taught me just tasted better if we dip them into our coffee. Cookies and Folgers with Dad. I can still taste it, and still feel his love and investment in me.
My people were worth everything to me and worth way more than they knew. They were rich in ingenuity, making do, and loving their own.