One of the skills that I have taught my children—perhaps the only one that will ever come in handy as they already use it fairly often—is the skill of searing the ends of rope, cord, ribbon, nylon, etc. I have taught them how to pass these ends and edges through a flame in order to “seal” them so they won’t fray. This is a skill I learned in an indoor/outdoor sewing class back in my high school days—one of the few useful skills I acquired in the six years spanning grades seven through 12.

The other day, C came into the kitchen with a length of black cord that was fraying. “I need the lighter,” he declared as he walked toward the crock where we keep it.

“Oh…” I hesitated. “We don’t have one that works. Your brother used it, and I meant to replace it.” I had put lighter on my shopping list countless times, but I never seemed to remember to actually buy one. The one we had was clearly empty and wouldn’t stay lit, but I hadn’t thrown it out. Somehow, I figured it would be useful (for what, I have no idea) until a new one appeared.

“So…?” he posed as a question, thinking I would fill in an answer for him. I continued typing on my laptop. “What am I supposed to do? I need to fix this.” He held out the cord for me to see, but I continued to work. By this point in my mothering career, I pretty much have eyes in the back of my head, the side of my head, the top of my head, and the bottom of my chin. I knew what he needed.

“We have matches,” I told him. He began searching the junk drawer in the kitchen, and he seemed to have found some because the next thing I knew, I heard him trying to light one. The first match didn’t stay lit long enough for him to sear all of his cord. The second one didn’t, either. He was on the third when I finally looked up from my work.

“How about if you light a candle?” I suggested. “Then you will have a constant flame, and you can work with that.”

Success! He was able to complete his task of searing the ends of three, maybe four, cords.

The next day, W walked into the kitchen with a length of paracord that he had wound into an impressive skein. “Nice!” I nodded my approval.

“I just need to seal these ends,” he said, holding them up for me to see.

“Um…. We don’t have a lighter that works,” I reported, feeling a strange sense of deja vu. “But we do have matches you can use.”

He dug through the drawer and pulled out the matches. He studied them for a minute. “How do these things work?” he asked, jokingly. As a Boy Scout, he has used matches once or twice.

“Hey, I can help you!” C said, coming to his brother’s rescue. “I’ve mastered this old-fashioned technology!”



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