All my life, as long as I can recall, Mama saved things. Not because she was sentimental, but because she had grown up Scotch-Irish poor so any little bit of something might be valuable down the road.
If she could only find where she put it.
When Mama died, she left behind six or seven irons, all broken and piled together in the corner of a bedroom closet. I suppose she believed one or more could resurrect itself and work again one day. She believed in miracles such as that.
Once, she had Bell’s palsy and she used masking tape to pull up her drooping cheek. The doctor laughed but she pointed her crooked little forefinger and said, “You just wait. I’ll show you a thing or two.” Her face returned to normal fairly quickly and though ol’ Doc Walker assured her it was not the masking tape which had done the trick, she believed otherwise. From that moment on, when she encountered anyone dealing with Bell’s palsy, she always said confidently, “Masking tape. It works wonders.”
She never threw anything away. Tiny scraps of fabric were saved for quilts or pot holders or in the event a dress got a tear and needed mending. My cousin, Lynn, who had loved her dearly, wanted something of her Aunt Bonelle’s to remember. So, we gave her a pretty, little cut-glass pitcher and I placed something inside it I knew would always make her smile each time she looked at it: on a small wood spool with the label of Coats and Clark peeling from the top, Mama had wound five different colors of thread -- pieces she had left over from other spools but didn’t want to throw the scant amount away. That would have been downright foolish.
Lynn laughed delightedly. “That’s her down pat.”
I would also like to mention here she left behind at least 200 other spools of thread, many never opened. I spent a couple of days organizing them by color on racks. There were dozens of shades and tones. It is safe to say I will live out the rest of my life without ever having to purchase another spool of thread.
Now, anyone who knew Mama knows she loved masking tape, duct tape and the occasional electrical tape. She could fix anything with one of those three. But her favorite keepsake was coffee jars and tins. She kept every one and packed each with piddly stuff like bobbins, hairpins, screws, nails, lids she kept after the jars were broken, clothesline pins and “bo-koo” of other stuff. She never met a coffee jar from which she could part.
I married a man who never really paid much attention to money or how far it could be stretched. He was raised differently than I. This was evident when his sweet mother died and there was not one coffee jar in her possessions or any cookie tins filled with nonsense.
From the moment he arrived to live in the South, I set about to change his ways. He would come back from the store and I’d say, “How much was it?”
And he, every time, would reply, “I don’t know. The receipt’s in the bag.”
I preached and the sole member of my congregation listened and began to practice the preaching. Before I knew it, he was harboring coffee jars and creamer containers. I would throw them into the trash and, when I wasn’t looking, he would pull them out.
“Put that back in the trash,” I’d say.
“No. This is good for storing stuff.”
I walked into the barn the other day and saw three coffee jars and four big plastic creamer containers lined up on the shelf. Some are filled with stuff while others are waiting for their treasure.
Mama would be so proud.
(Ronda Rich is a best-selling Southern author. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.)