Worth, Value, and Nostalgia

Disability aside, have you ever hitched a ride or picked up a hitchhiker? Whether for a single mile to get gas for your/their empty tank or for a thrilling cross-country trek, you know a bad ride.

And, if you have ever been the host ride for the tenacious cockle burr, you know the aggravation and pain of these small ½-inch long, brown burred seeds with sharp, hooked spines. They are hitchhikers from hell, traveling the world by stealthily sticking to your clothing and/or your pet’s fur! My bloody fingers have felt like pin cushions after unwinding my Irish Setter’s long silky hair from their snare.

What made me think of hitchhiking? A math compass from a drafting course I took in the 1800s (a little before my SCI) that has mysteriously found its way to my keyboard tray. How is it that some things stick with us after high school and college graduations through multiple storages, transfers, uproots, marriage, and divorce?

What greater worth does a 6-inch metal math compass have over a luxuriously overstuffed, expensive upholstered chair that I left in one of my moves! For that matter, a couch in another? Nostalgia.

Before living with a disability, I used to love browsing through hardware stores. Yes, small town hardware stores! They reek of yesteryear. I loved the feel and smell of suede gloves, the fantasy of an overstuffed and oft’ used tool belt, puzzling assortments of hammers with every length and shape of nail, drawers of miscellaneous pulls and knobs, every type of rake and hoe…which brings me to Goldie.

Goldie was an avid gardener. She nurtured fields of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. She canned, pickled, and/or froze the produce, even pressed and dried her flowers. But, what most impressed me was her hoe. Yes, her garden hoe.

It was the only hoe she had ever used, was almost as old as she was, and boasted a filed down 2-inch blade, compared to its initial 3 1/4-inch depth! To maintain its best hoeing self, she sharpened it after each season’s use.

I grew up on a farm and we always had a garden; but, I had never known anyone like Goldie who took such care of their hoe. I thought her attention to its excellence was as extreme as my dad’s cleaning of his firearms after each hunt. The seed was sown. I wanted a hoe to cherish. I wanted to wield it for as long as Goldie had. Goldie was the inspiration for my first organic garden.

At twenty-six, I prepared, composted, hoed, planted, groomed, irrigated, and cultivated that garden. Its greatest yield was two dozen pints of hot chow-chow/relish. (My dad called it “pea ruiner.”) Disappointingly, bugs got the Brussels sprouts and broccoli; my Irish Setter got the cantaloupes and watermelons. When they were mere hardball size, he picked them for lone games of toss and catch!

As destiny would have it, I experienced a SCI before the next planting. My hoe blade was never sharpened. But, my metal math compass has inexplicably made its way to my keyboard tray. For a finger function substitute, I use its sharp point as a flip-top opener for sodas and juices. That’s its helpful function.

With every pro, there’s a con. The “con” of its sharp point: piercing one of these tin cans! The carbonated contents of a Sierra Mist spewed four feet onto the nearest wall—showering its ant attracting sugar across papers, files, books, and bills—until the liquid level fell below the can’s pierce. I finally wised up midway through its geyser and tilted the can away from the wall to lower the liquid’s level and stop its display.

No matter. It’s my little nostalgic hitchhiker treasure of bygone days. It’s not a sharpened hoe blade, but it makes its point.

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