Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lifetime Quality

Both Homestead Mama and I grew up with parents who worked hard for what little they had, and like most folks have grandparents who lived through the depression and passed on frugality as a lifestyle. While this frugality seems to fade a bit more with each generation, H-Mama and I each have parts of our lives in which we live very conservatively and purposefully more out of choice versus need. We strive to live with less consumption both to save money but also to keep frugal habits that we can pass on to the kids. Frugal living is a muscle that must be flexed; it is all too easy to get in the habit of buying whatever you want.

I remember my father's workbench in the basement, the surface covered in decades of paint drips and nicks from tools put there by many previous owners. The edges of all the shelves rounded and softened with years of use. The vice clamped permanently onto the edge of the bench was good for many fun experiments. The smell of sawdust, paint thinner, oil, and that cool, dusty but embracing smell of basements accompanied all our activities down there. I love that scent to this day. We got to spend our precious alone-time with Dad down there, doing projects, playing, and being taught how to use tools. It was a huge treat to be allowed to help change the powdery mantle on the lantern before a camping trip, or have his big hand cover ours and guide the wood burner as we made patterns and burned our names onto mother's day projects. I got the Visible Woman model for Christmas one year and Dad spent hours at the workbench putting her together alongside me.

Homestead Mama remembers her first solo woodworking project at her dad's workbench - a boat made with scrap wood and nails. As many nails as she wanted [do you see where this is going?]. Her dad gave her the hammer and let her whack away until she felt it was done. She was so proud of her boat, and her father encouraged her wildly. She sadly, and much to her father's dismay, insisted on filling the bathtub for a maiden voyage. All the structural integrity offered by the better part of a box of nails holding the boat together was the source of the devastation of all her hopes and dreams for her beloved boat as the water rose around it and over the top of it as it failed to float. In confused desperation, she picked it up, dried it off and set it gently upon the surface of the water. It made an audible clunk as it hit the bottom of the tub, sinking like a ten-penny nail-encrusted stone.

My dad had all his paintbrushes carefully washed and wrapped in newspaper to protect the bristles and hanging in the tool cabinet. They were years old, but the bristles were in perfectly good condition due to good care. This same respect for paintbrushes was instilled in both H-Mama and I, so when we bought the Homestead we invested in Purdy paintbrushes which will last through decades of painting if you care for them well.

Over the past few years, as our own work on the Homestead has lessened, we've loaned out our painting supplies and other construction materials to friends to help out their projects. Everyone has been generous to us with their time and tools, and we are happy to pay that forward. However, I was ready to paint the new kitchen shelves and couldn't find any of our brushes. Very sad, as I assume they died a lonely and paint-encrusted death long before their usefulness should have been up. So when Homestead Mama and I went to pick her car up from its oil change site yesterday, we stopped at Home Depot on the way home to buy some paintbrushes. At $15 or so per brush, this is an expense I had hoped to not have more than once, but we now have a few new brushes to get our immediate projects taken care of. I'll build our supply back up over time so as not to crack the budget. H-Mama called in a take-away order of Indian food for our dinner and drove home with the sleeping babies, leaving me to pick up the food. I drove by the restaurant and noticed how packed it was, assumed that I had at leat 25 minutes to waste before the food was ready and headed over to the massive book sale that our town puts on twice a year to fund our library. It was torture to leave after only 15 minutes or so - I've killed entire afternoons at the book sale before - but I still managed to score a bunch of books to help me crack the mysteries of child-rearing. I'll have to play years 4 and 5 and 8 by ear since they didn't have the books from the much-recommended Ames and Ilg series for those years, but otherwise I'm good through puberty. I feel more confident in my parenting already, and at at the huge bargain of about $1.50 a book.

You can see some some crappy books fell in my bag on the way out and I was too lazy to pull them out.

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