“Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him [her] constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.”— Thomas A. Edison
When I wake thirsty in the middle of the night, I find my way downstairs to the kitchen where I stand at the sink and drink a tall glass of water while looking out the window at the barn’s slumped shadow and our backyard full of tractors. Everything is as we’ve left it: in a state of repair.
Funny day. The starter from our first tractor has been installed in the new-to-us tractor. It turns over without a puff of smoke. “Success,” you say, with a wide grin. “We saved ourselves a lot of trouble.”
Nickel, Penny, Dime, Quarter. This bank counts the coins I slip through its slot and saves the total in the lid’s LED memory; $2.74 a day would be comparable to the pennies saved in the turn of the 20th century secret “star” banks that were nailed to the floors in narrow bedroom closets. What would you do with a thousand dollars? When I suggest this to my students, they laugh at me. Their life is gravy.
Like a child raised by a mother who lived through the Depression, I keep new clothes new, waiting for the occasion; I keep shoes that have walked too many steps; I keep a drawer full of letters that profess a love I never quite believed; I keep paper that wraps or invites me to draw or read. I keep books, old and new; good and not-so good; I keep stones, shells, chestnuts fallen from trees. I keep memories that won’t leave me. Whenever I look into a puddle, I see the other world and realize I can’t bring this one with me. I know the day will come when they will box everything up and give it away.
Standing in the musky dampness of the Seven Holy Vets, a name we’ve given to any thrift store, I look things over carefully. What is this idle time worth? My hands pass over well worn fabric; fingers trace hairline cracks in mismatched teacups. I think there is an afterlife in the things I put aside in my basket, like this never-been-used-special-red-plate. I imagine tonight’s celebration when I serve your dinner on This Is Your Day plate. You will be so surprised—no, delighted—that I didn’t save it for later.
M.J. Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Between Worlds is her most recent chapbook, featuring lyric essays, flash fiction and prose poems (Foothills Publishing, 2013). She is the Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College. You can follow her musings on writing and creative sustainability on Red Rooster Farm at mjiuppa.blogspot.com.