I married a man who knows where he can get a surplus of washing machine motors in case of a clothes-washing emergency. I fell in love with a guy who has hauled a broken down three-wheeler to all five of the places we’ve moved with the intention of making the thing run when he has a spare moment (and he never really has a spare moment).
And, we’ve been over this before, but I want to remind you that I’m living with a person who has 75 Tupperware containers full of drill bits, little pieces of wire, nails and screws of various sizes, scraps of leather, broken saw blades, old speaker cords, empty shotgun shells, half-used rolls of tape, weird-shaped things made of metal, something that looks like an electrical box, loose change from years of emptying pockets and a partridge in a pear tree because he might need it someday.
OK, so I’ve set the scene so you won’t be surprised that when my uncle from Texas arrived in our yard earlier this spring and casually mentioned that he was going to take a trip to Dickinson that afternoon because his toilet was broken I turned on my heel, opened the garage door and offered him the extra one we’ve had sitting in there for months. It was still in the box and everything — all we had to do was remove the table saw sitting on top of it and it was all his. It was fancy (the box claimed you could flush like six golf balls down the thing), and my uncle was thrilled.
My husband’s hoarding qualities also recently saved our neighbor a trip to town after the big blizzards this April when he called to ask if he had an extra shear pin for his snowblower. Turns out he just picked up an extra 37 or so, you know, just in case.
And while most of the rest of the year I silently curse all the extra crap I have to walk over and around and move from surface to surface day to day, it was alarming the amount of pride I had in my husband when I was able to present my uncle with an unexpected, shiny new toilet.
It’s a generational gene that is planted in his soul. His dad is the one who sent an old washing machine he refurbished from the dump to college with Chad, and, along with it a few decent motors for the road. He was renting his first condo and by the time he moved to the next place, my husband and our friend had completely finished the basement, installed a new bathroom and redid all of the floors in the upper level. At the delicate age of 21, my husband had effectively dove into his legacy of leaving every place a little better for having him.
Yes, he comes by it honestly. His grandma, his dad’s mother, was a woman on the heels of the Great Depression and thrifty was a badge she wore with pride. She cut her paper plates in half and hung her paper towels to dry, shopped the section in the grocery store with the dented cans on discount and sent me a birthday card once with a little rip off of the edge and made sure to make a little arrow so she could tell me she got it on sale. She found treasure in things other people gave up on, scooped it up behind dumpsters and on curbsides and took it home to shine up and line up neatly on her shelves or on tables set up in that garage she opened every weekend to the neighborhood, offering the stuff a second chance at a new home.
And we laugh and tease about it now, but honestly, what a precious quality. In this world made of plastic, disposable, breakable things, things that are cheap but cost us so much, we need more Leonas in this world to take care. There was never a hard-earned dollar that she didn’t account for because she knew a time when the hard-earned dollar was hard to come by.
You can see evidence of that generation on this ranch as well while we slowly collect and clean up old equipment and rundown buildings. One of the last things to go is a shed with three garage doors that my grandpa used as a garage. Sitting on shelves are old coffee tins full of, you guessed it, drill bits, little pieces of wire, nails and screws of various sizes, scraps of leather, broken saw blades, old cords, empty shotgun shells, half-used rolls of tape, weird-shaped things made of metal, something that looks like an electrical box and long-retired welding supplies and tools to put the broken things back together.
And it reminds me, when my lawnmower breaks down on Sunday 30 miles from town or we need to pinch pennies while still getting the fences fixed, or if a neighbor comes knocking looking for a spare battery or bolt — or, you know, a toilet — that the man I married was born for this place. And if you need anything, just call…