catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 7 :: 2008.04.04 — 2008.04.18


Defective connections

My children love pumpkin scones, and together we mix the dough using an old hand mixer that can grip only one beater rather than two. When measuring how tall the kids are, I use a flexible tape measure that is shredded at one end. This makes accurate measurements from that end quite impossible. And, the pig-shaped cutting board I reach for daily is missing one of its legs. Why do I keep these defective items? Is it concern for the environment? Am I trying to save money? No. I keep them (and use them) because they are some of my only connections—physical connections, that is—to my childhood.

Most things in my physical life—the things I see and touch everyday—have no connection with my past. My computer, my clothes, my car, even my kids are all less than fifteen years old, whereas my mixer, my tape measure and my cutting board are each more than thirty years old. As a teen learning to cook in my mom’s kitchen, I used the very same hand mixer, not a similar mixer, not one that was the same brand and style, but I used the very same mixer. (Naturally, it held both beaters back then). My childhood kitchen is gone, and my mom is gone, but the mixer exists as a solid, material reality today. The tape measure I use is the actual tape measure I used when sewing the pink-and-green blouse I’m seen wearing in my high school picture, sophomore year. The tape measure is not a representation of something, like the photograph is; it’s the actual thing. My blouse is gone (who knows where!), but the tape measure is here. The pig cutting board I use daily was carved by my cousin approximately thirty-three years ago and given to me by my parents one Christmas. I rarely see my cousin, but I daily see and touch this ancient Christmas present.

I like to think of these small, insignificant (and defective) tools as portable, historical links. Their portability has served them well; they each made the cut when my husband and I packed and moved eight different times. And, because they are still (somewhat) functional, they continue to be a part of my everyday life. These items are solid evidence of an unbroken line with the past. My past.

Sure, I have photos and letters from my childhood, but these are packed away in boxes, and I don’t see them regularly. My children see them even less. But my kids do see and use these other items. My childhood tools are a regular part of their childhood.     I’d love for my mixer to last another thirty years so it can be a physical reminder to them, too. And, anyway, I doubt they even know that mixers are supposed to hold two beaters.

The other day, my husband innocently commented that our blender is “sounding strained” and we should replace it.

Who is this man I committed my life to? This man who would dare suggest that our twenty-four-year-old blender, given to me by one of my bridesmaids, should be tossed out just because it’s incapable of mixing a large batch of pancake batter or of blending tomatoes for salsa? From my perspective, the blender is just getting started on its long life as a portable, historical link.

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