I think I’m a bit of a throwback.
In this fast-paced world, I get great pleasure out of the slow, quiet activities that were perhaps more commonplace years ago, in a time when people had less money, fewer gadgets, more patience.
I was thinking about that this afternoon while I was fixing a silly little Christmas doorknob ornament that I bought a few years ago at the dollar store. George and I both enjoy the happy little jingle it makes whenever we open or close the door. It’s worth next to nothing, and so when the little bell on the bottom fell off today, most people would probably simply have thrown it out.
I couldn’t. Fixing it was such a simple matter. A little thread, a few stitches, and the little bell is jingling once again. I didn’t do it to save money; like I said, I paid mere pennies for it. But I got such a sense of satisfaction out of extending the life of this small trinket instead of adding it to the always-growing piles of refuse our country generates.
I sat in the quiet at my sewing machine, my dog in her bed behind me, and enjoyed the simple rhythm of the stitches. It was a housewifely sort of thing to do, one of the details of keeping a home running without spending unnecessarily. It was using what I had. It was a kind of creativity.
I sat at the machine a few days ago doing the same kind of thing. My new pajamas were a mile too long, and instead of just rolling them up, or letting them drag on the floor until they were frayed and ugly, I decided to shorten them. It wasn’t a straightforward hem, though. The bottom was a separate piece with a little bit of contrasting fabric along the top edge. I could have just cut it off and hemmed it the normal way, but what would have been the fun of that?
So, I painstakingly snipped the stitches until I could pull the hem apart, cut off the excess, and reattached the bottom strip with its little contrasting edge. Not only did I end up with pajama bottoms that fit properly, but I now can save the piece I cut off to include in some future quilting project. Everything gets used, and I just love that feeling.
I take great delight in those hands-on kinds of little jobs that really equal good stewardship, using, mending, repurposing, wasting not. I like to wash plastic bags, save vegetable water for the next batch of soup, reuse the padded envelopes that come with things we’ve ordered. I take delight in the simple things of caring for a home. I love putting a good meal on the table and watching George enjoy it; I pull his clothes out of the hamper with deliberation and enjoy getting them clean and ironed so he looks good when he leaves here. And it works both ways. He scrapes the windows on my car when I head out on a frosty morning and he carries the heavy bags of groceries for me. Today he fixed the bird feeder that had fallen when the wire broke.
To me, mending, reusing, repurposing shows respect for the hard work we put into acquiring those things. It shows gratitude. A few generations ago, people did those things because they had no choice. I do it because I do have one, and it seems the better option than rampant consuming with the waste that accompanies it.
Maybe that’s why I love the old term that has largely fallen by the wayside in this day and age: homemaker. It involves a lot more than the so-called drudgery of housework. It’s about the delight of nest-building.
I suspect there are other throwbacks out there, tending and husbanding their lives with quiet contentment.