Positivity Post: Useless Gems from the Past

Recently, I have taken on the job of sorting through stuff. The stuff in question consists of items that were hidden in long forgotten boxes stashed in the attic of my childhood home—old family photographs, school papers, letters, greeting cards, books, newspaper clippings… you name it. Every now and then, in amongst the useless stuff, I encounter a rare—albeit worthless—gem, and sometimes, I feel the need to share it before I throw it out.

Being a woman of a certain (non-youthful) age, I was immediately intrigued when I came across a 1941 booklet entitled “The new way to a Youthful Figure.” I am most likely the exact target demographic of this publication, though two generations out. In fact, I have finally hit the point where I can put on a pound or two just looking at ice cream, which does not thrill me. So I opened the booklet to see what the 1941 trending logic was to maintain—or regain—a youthful figure.

What I discovered is that the dieting information of yesteryear is pretty much the same information as today. There is information on alkaline versus acid: “If you would feel at your best, be quick on the trigger, physically and mentally, you should let the alkaline-forming foods be slightly in excess of the acid-forming ones.”

There is a 3-day cleanse to begin. And we are assured, “By Monday morning your system will be thoroughly cleansed. You will be so hungry that the reducing menu will taste delicious.” Ah, now that’s the ticket to a successful diet—starve yourself first so you are happy to have anything edible! Your stomach will be happy, but your brain might be foggy.

In the back of the booklet, there are menus to help limit calories each day, and there is a lengthy list of 100-calorie portions. Pretty typical. “The reducing menus, pages 15-19, provide all the nourishment your body requires. Moreover, if carefully prepared, appetizingly served, they are not only satisfying but delicious. If you follow them carefully, with absolute honesty even for a few weeks, you may look in your mirror some morning and cry, ‘Eureka! I have a waistline! And behold this faint blush of rose in my cheeks! It’s amazing how fit and lively I feel!’” I don’t know about you, but the day I talk to myself in the mirror this way is the day I might need to be moved to a safe location.

Should you feel the need to read this booklet, I would be happy to scan it and send it to you. Heck, I’ll just send it to you, so you can have the original! And I will go back to sorting my stuff. I’ll be sure to share any more gems I find.

Meanwhile, I am caught between advising readers to sort through and dispose of their own clutter so that others won’t have to do it and advising readers to save a few completely useless items just to give future generations a laugh or two.

Baking Oddities

I had a bunch of bananas that were [well] past their prime, so when the very brief heat wave passed, I decided to use them in a banana bread. Typically, I make banana muffins, but bread seemed more pleasing today, so I turned to the Internet in search of a new recipe. Just for something different.

When I googled “best banana bread recipe,” the first thing that came up was a recipe from Food.com—the directions began, “Remove odd pots and pans from the oven.” Wait… what?

Even though I have never seen a recipe begin like this before, it doesn’t seem like an odd way to start a recipe. When I was growing up, we had a gas stove. Back then, gas stoves had a pilot light that was on all the time, which meant that the oven remained warmish. All the time.

After we washed the dishes or unloaded the dishwasher, anything that was still damp would end up in the oven where it would dry with the help of the heat from the pilot light. Before we baked, we always had to check the oven for “odd pots and pans.” If we forgot… well, things that shouldn’t have been in the oven would melt or burn.

So when I came across this recipe today, I had an unintended a trip down memory lane. But then it occurred to me… we must not have been the only home in which “odd pots and pans” were stored in the oven when it was not in use.

Winter’s Release

This is the time of year when winter releases the many captives it has taken during the long, snow-smothered months. One never knows what will appear when the snow melts, and sometimes the discoveries can be downright surprising.

Two winters ago, I recovered a cell phone that had been buried in the snow for the better part of the winter. When I turned it on, it still worked, though the service had been disconnected weeks earlier by its owner. My challenge then was to find the owner and return the phone, which I was ultimately able to do by finding common contacts.

When my children were young, I found a wallet plowed into a pile of gooey brown road-slush. I took it home to dry it out and find its rightful owner. The wallet contained cash, credit cards, and identification, and I don’t think the man’s wife was pleased that a strange woman was calling her husband relatively late at night—at least not until she found out the reason for my call. The next day, I delivered the wallet to the bakery cafe where the man worked, and he gave my children each a large cookie from the display case.

One night this week, when I stopped at our mailboxes on my way home from work, I noticed a pair of eyeglasses in a case sitting on top of the box. The case looked naggingly familiar. It pulled at the memories contained in my brain, and as I dragged out the heavy box in which I store all useless tidbits of memory, the lid squeaked from lack of use. Interestingly, memories can slip into the storage box nearly unnoticed, but getting them out again can sometimes take great work and strain.

The memory started to emerge: A month ago—maybe two—my BF appeared at my house with new reading glasses (because we are at that age, and reading without them is challenging). He had purchased a new pair because… well, because he misplaces them. All. The. Time. These new glasses were contained in a nice case.

But the next day, the glasses had gone missing. BF seemed to think he had left them at my house, and he launched a futile search. I tried to tell him the glasses weren’t there, but he wouldn’t believe me until he didn’t find them there. He then thought he had left them in his car, but I never saw the glasses again after that. Until now.

Because now, they were sitting on top of the mailboxes, dirty from the weeks spent in the snow, but they were intact, unbroken, and in good shape. Luckily, it seemed they had not been plowed into a snowbank or run over by a car. And the case had done a good job of keeping them free of scratches. BF now has them back. At least for now.

Sometimes, I am amazed that anything can emerge intact after months buried in snow. And sometimes, I just wish winter would give up the fight and release the spring….

Blurring

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Sometimes, I have to wonder. My children—even as teens, or maybe especially as teens—tend to shed their belongings as they walk in the front door and through the house. The shoes are the first to come off onto the boot tray. Then the backpack, landing on the floor by the chair. The jacket is sometimes hung up, but usually ends up thrown on the back of a chair or on the table. Sweatshirt, sweaters, hat, socks, etc. As my children shed these items, they get dropped along the path. It’s a blur of doors and limbs and kids and belongings.

At the end of last week, I had just returned home from work. I emptied and put away my lunchbox, and I made my way up to my room to change from my work clothes before I made dinner. As I raised my foot to step on the first stair, I heard, “Don’t step on my shirt!”

What? Ah yes. Someone had dropped a shirt, right there in the middle of the bottom step.

Perhaps the problem is not really me stepping on the shirt. It seems, the problem might be more about the shirt being in the middle of the steps where it doesn’t belong. Just a thought.

Chocolate chips or…

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Yesterday, I baked some cookies. Baking cookies at this time of year serves two purposes. First, it provides us with dessert for school lunches. But second, using the oven takes the chill off the house when the sun goes down in the evenings. And so far, I really haven’t had to use my heat much this fall.

I asked W what he wanted in his cookies: chocolate chips or M&Ms. He opted for chocolate chips. I asked J the same question.

“How about nothing?” she suggested. She is one of those kids who has never really cared for sweets. Regardless of what I add to the cookies, she’ll pick them out.

However, I had just stocked up on baking supplies for my holiday baking. “I have toffee pieces,” I told her. “I can use those instead of chocolate chips?”

She shook her head. “No thanks.”

“Cinnamon chips? I have some of those….”

Again, she shook her head.

I opened the pantry cabinet. “Ooo, I know! How about Skittles?” I ventured hopefully. “I could put Skittles in the cookies.”

“Mom, that’s gross.”

I suppose that would be. Or, maybe not….

Brain transplant

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Sometimes (actually, often), we have some unusual conversations in our family. The other day, I got in the car with W, and as I settled in to drive, I felt a twinge in my knee. “Ooo, my knee hurts,” I commented, mostly to myself.

“Is that from when you fell?” he asked, and I nodded. Back in January, I was pumping gas, and I attempted to step over the loop of hose between my car and the gas pump. Bad idea. The hose tripped me up, and I fell, my left knee taking the brunt of the landing. Let’s just say after the embarrassment, the tears, and the initial pain, I had recovered, but my knee… it was slow to heal.

“You should probably get that checked before you have to get it replaced,” he said in his fifteen-year-old matter-of-fact way. “I know someone who had one replaced.”

“I know someone who had two replaced,” I bested.

“You know those cars that have so many parts replaced they are practically brand new?” he asked, taking the conversation in a related-unrelated direction.

“Yeah. Can you do that with a human? Replace so many parts and organs they become a ‘new’ person?” I chuckled at the thought.

“That would be weird.” He looked out the window, and that was probably my cue to stop the conversation. But I didn’t.

“What about a brain transplant?” I ventured. “That might make someone a new person.”

“They can’t do that.” He went for the logical, but I wasn’t having it.

“But what if they could?” I pressed. “You would be a new person. You might not even remember who you were; you wouldn’t recognize your family or your friends….” I tried to think about the multitude of dilemmas presented by this type of major operating system transplant.

“You’d have someone else’s memories and thoughts,” W started to engage, but then stopped. “But they don’t do that.”

“Maybe it wouldn’t really be a brain transplant.” My mind was working overtime as I tried to wrap my head around this concept. “Maybe you’d wake up and say, ‘Oh look! I got a new body!’ For the person whose brain it was, it would be a body transplant.”

Oh my! I believe I’m thankful they haven’t figured out how to do this type of surgery. At least they haven’t figured it out yet….

 

 

Anomalies

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Yesterday’s November blog challenge prompt was supposed to be “20 facts about me,” but I wrote something different. Today, I give you Fact #1:

When I was growing up, my father owned a business that was housed in what was once the town fire house and opera house. It was an interesting combination, to say the least, and I’m not exactly sure how that worked. If there was a fire in town, did the show stop while the firemen and trucks clanked out of the building, sirens screaming? I really have no idea, and that is not really the point of this story.

The point is that the building had a working fire pole from the second floor to the first. By “working,” I mean that it was still standing and connected on both ends. And it was sturdy. And since I was a regular visitor to this defunct firehouse, I was presented with the opportunity to take up a career in pole dancing… way before pole dancing became vogue.

However, the phrase “Do not play on the pole” was part of the vernacular of my house. But I have to say, it was sooooo tempting! What kid wouldn’t want to slide down a fire pole? Every time I went down the front stairs (which wasn’t often because the stairs by the stage were the ones we typically used), my eyes would lock on the pole, and I would long to slide down it. Or try to climb up it. Just once.

But I didn’t. The words, “Do not play on the pole,” rang in my head every time I reached my arm out, brushing the cool metal with my fingertips as I walked by. And I know it really wasn’t because they thought I might become an exotic dancer.

Looking back, I realize that this was one of the anomalies of my childhood narrative. Not many people can say that their parents regularly warned them about a fire pole. So I got to wondering… what are some of the anomalies from your childhood narrative?