Sunday, July 31, 2022

Jar of Goodness 7.31.22: Wait. Jar of Goodness?

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for . . .

Well, it’s just been kind of hard recently.

I know I shouldn’t complain. There are so many people worse off than us. And my uncle just had a major health scare (fortunately, he seems to be feeling much better now). . . . But we’re getting tired of trouble, expensive trouble.

At the end of June, as we drove home around 9 p.m. after spending Father’s Day in Columbia, my elderly car died on US 63. (I posted about it earlier.) It was a late night as we had to have the car towed the rest of the way to Jeff City, and then, having been dropped off at the (closed) repair place, we had to wait for the one taxi cab in town. It was not marked; it was just some guy’s smoky-smelling SUV. This is a taxi? Anyway, he was pleasant enough. We didn’t get home until about midnight.

The very next day, as we were driving back to Columbia on the very same highway, Sue’s front right brake calipers went bad, and we pulled off at the very same place on the highway. The wheel was sizzling hot. So, we called AAA again and got another tow.

That’s right: we got two tows, for two different cars, from the exact same spot, within a single twenty-four-hour period.

Some of the good parts: We have AAA. We have AAA Plus. We were not physically injured. We have cell phones that work (you young things, try to imagine how much of a pain it was when your car broke down in the middle of nowhere, and cell phones didn't exist). The truck was able to be fixed within a few days. The service rep at our local Honda dealer, where both cars were taken for service, offered us a car to rent, which was very convenient.

But back to the complaining . . .

Trying to buy a car is a bitch in 2022, especially if you’re in a small town. In a nutshell: The available used cars are crappy and overpriced. Few in the Honda dealer’s lot are Honda Certified; in fact, few on the Honda dealer’s lot are even Hondas. As for new cars, they are simply not available. We find ourselves in the lucky/unlucky position of being able to purchase a new car, to make a sizeable down payment, and have excellent credit, being preapproved for a lowest-interest loan, and yet . . . there’s nothing to buy. So we paid a deposit and are on a waiting list. It will probably be months before our car is manufactured and arrives in Missouri. Meanwhile I can only dream about having a lovely, reliable, sexy new car.

Yes, the above image is shamelessly stolen from the Honda website. Why wouldn't they want someone like me sharing their lovely promotional photo of their top-selling sedan in its most desirable color this model year?

More complaining: the local Honda dealer appears to have done some kind of bait-and-switch on us, promising us that if we paid a deposit before someone else did, we’d be able to put our names on a car that’d been ordered by someone else who’d declined the vehicle, thus getting us ahead of the usual schedule . . . But then that evaporated. I think our young sales associate offered us something he wasn’t allowed to offer. They won’t tell us he screwed up, but that’s apparently what he did. I’m allowed to be angry about that, right? He told us we’d get “that cool Sonic Gray Metallic, by early August, instead of September!”; then he called a few weeks later and said “in early or middle September, maybe, and it’ll be white!” Wait, what? No!

It’s a long story. This crazy COVID economy is most of the problem; computer chips from China are in scant supply, so production is way down. The Honda company, the factory, has to allocate the few cars that are dribbling out of its assembly lines to all the dealers on the continent, and guess what? The rinky-dink small-town dealers like the one in this town are getting the dregs. They’re getting the black and the white cars. I think they’re getting just one or two a month.

Meanwhile, the big-city dealers that sell more cars in a bigger market get many more cars from the factory, and they get a greater variety of colors. So this is why we ended up putting a deposit and placing an order from a St. Louis dealer, too. Geez. It this crazy, or what? It’s about like what happened with us trying to get a new refrigerator this winter.

Again: It could be far worse. We have a neighbor who uses a riding lawn mower as his principal mode of transportation. Our problems are laughable to him. Our problems are “First World problems.” I know it. And we are so lucky that my parents, who are doing much less driving these days, are glad to let us use their car for out-of-town excursions.

THEN, with the one-car situation kind of settling in, Sue and I were driving back home from a trip to Columbia this past Monday, and AGAIN her truck started acting weird. It was making a funny noise. The engine heated up. The battery light came on. The power steering went out. We pulled over, again, on US 63 again, again near Hartsburg (actually, this time it was along the shoulder near the Boone and Callaway county line). (I’m starting to hate Hartsburg!)

Called AAA. Again. By this time, Tyler, the smiling young tow-truck driver for Kendall’s, knows us. “Oh, yeah, when they said it was a purple pickup, I knew it was you!” . . . Again, I’m glad we have AAA. Again, I’m grateful that the repair place was able to fix it. It was a malfunctioning pulley on the serpentine belt, and a broken serpentine belt. (This time, since we’re kind of honked off at the local Honda-everything, we had it towed to Telle Tire, and though they were busy, and we’d dropped it off after-hours without an appointment, they fixed it within a few days, and it was okay.) But I’m not liking this car stress.

Okay, next topic: Did I mention we’re finally getting a new roof and gutters? Supposedly? Yeah. We’re lucky that insurance is covering it, considering the damage occurred in the hailstorm in late March 2020, but fortunately it’s covered, and we have a surprisingly low deductible. But it’s stressful, anyway. We’ve been expecting them all month. We recently found out that the reason for the delay is the combination of our steep roof and the super-f-ing-hot weather we’ve been having. The roofing company doesn’t want the shingles and other materials to be compromised because of the heat. Not to mention the safety of their workers . . . And yeah, we have a sense of PTSD regarding the roofers. When we had the current roof installed in 2006, we unfortunately had a clown/ex-con/ripoff company rip us off. (You might remember our sunporch disaster, thanks to them.)

So we approach this roof work with trepidation. How can we not? This has been the biggest problem with owning this old house: We’re not fix-it people. We’re not carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers. And we have a hell of a time finding people to a) do the work, and b) trust to do it right.

Then, Tuesday, the day after Sue’s recent truck incident, and while it was being repaired, we discovered that one of our central air-conditioning units was making a funny sound, like it was straining. The coils had frozen up to the point where we were seeing frost on the outside of the unit. We turned off the system, and the thing defrosted, and we worried. It’s a 21-year-old system, and the maintenance folks have been telling us in recent years that it has a 15-year lifespan.

Fortunately, our annual scheduled a/c maintenance was only two days later, so that service call was covered by our contract . . . but unfortunately, the news was grim. The unit isn’t worth fixing; any fix would require retrofitting the coolant system for a different type of coolant, since the kind our system uses is no longer available . . . and any fix they did would still be a band-aid, as the aging compressor is no longer operating very efficiently anymore . . . So, tomorrow, we’ll meet with a sales representative and see what kind of suggestions and offers they can make.

Of course, they’ll offer us a discount on replacing both systems at once (we have two systems, one for the first-floor apartment, one for the second). But who wants to buy two air conditioners and two furnaces at once? Yeah, it would be nice to have them all be new and identical. But, but . . .

And yeah, I'm glad we have a separate first-floor air-conditioning unit that's working fine, so we can kind of live on the first floor if we need to. And I'm glad we've had relatively cool temperatures this week. But it's going to get back up into the nineties this next week. Ugh, ugh, ugh. The service man said the company might be able to tide us through with some loaner window a/c units until our new a/c unit(s) are installed, in something like one and a half to two weeks.

But who wants to make these purchases when preparing to buy an new car at the same time? And do you know what our retirement investments have been doing recently? Ugh!

So, “Jar of Goodness.” I’m giving you a mixed review this week. We’re just feeling really stressed and tired.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Jar of Goodness 7.24.22: Menus for the Seasons

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for my Uncle Richard.

He’s my godfather, he’s my woodsy uncle, my alternate daddy. He’s a retired conservation agent. He’s recently hit a rough patch, health-wise, and I feel like sharing one of his (((many, excellent))) writings. This is one of my favorites, because he didn’t work hard on it; you know it just flowed from his mind naturally, in a single, beautiful concept.

It’s also a testament to the women in his life, especially his mother (my Grandma Schroeder) and his wife (Aunt Carole), who always knew how to make the dishes of the seasons, which he clearly loved to the point of idealization.

Yeah, there’s longing in this list, the way we long for snow in July, warm sunshine and green things in January, rain during a drought.

Anyone from rural Missouri will understand at least some of this list. Understanding some of it means you get the rest of it, too, by extension.

To me, it’s poetry . . .

Feel better soon, Uncle Richard.

Menus for the Seasons

Stewed Rabbit
Cooked Carrots
Waldorf Salad with Black Walnuts

Baked Wild Turkey with Dressing
Morel Mushrooms
Mennonite Biscuits with Molasses or Honey

Early Summer
Creek Perch Fried
New Potatoes
Polk Greens
Raspberries and Ice Cream

Fried Catfish
Fried Potatoes with Onions
Sweet Corn
Blackberry Pie

Late Summer
Frog Legs
Green Beans
Blueberry Muffins
Homemade Ice Cream

Early Fall
Baked Doves
Baked Squash and Apples

Fried Squirrel
Biscuits and Gravy
Blackeye Peas
Sliced Tomatoes
Pecan Pie

Late Fall
B*B*Q Deer Ribs
Baked Potato
Cooked Turnips
Cornbread and Honey
Persimmon Pie

Early Winter
Baked Goose
Sweet Potato
Homemade Bread

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Postcard: Mamma to Mrs. Henry Link, August 1913

Kind of on the subject of picnics, I wanted to share with you a picture postcard from 1913. I found it at a flea market in northern Ohio several years ago. It was just so intriguing, full of people who are all long dead, but they’ve been having so much fun, because they’re having a picnic meal together out in the woods somewhere.

Maybe it’s a family reunion. I understand that people used to get together in the teens and twenties for camping trips. Photographers often brought their equipment with them into the woods and made picture postcards for everyone. Sue read about it in old issues of American Photography magazine (she went through a period of reading a bunch of issues of it from the early 1900s). (You can find issues online.)

The card is from “Mamma,” who apparently lived in Milan, Ohio, but was on a trip to Clare, Michigan; she sent it to her daughter, Mrs. Henry Link, who lived in Bellevue, Ohio. I'm providing a transcription of the simple message, below.

Clair, Michigan, was probably a nice, cool place to go camping in August 1913.

One of the nice things about digital images is that you can zoom in on stuff and see things without having to use a magnifying glass and squint. So I’m providing some closeups for you, so you can enjoy this picture better.

To Mrs. Henry Link
Bellevue, Ohio
R. D. No. 3

Postmark: Clare, Mich., 7 PM 18 Aug 1913

Clare [Michigan] 8.18.1913

Dear Daughter

Earns came today we expect to start tomorrow for Milan can’t tell just when we will get home. We have had rain yesterday north of hear it rained very hard the rain just divided & went around we are all well hope you are getting along all right you can call Rob & tell him

Lovingly, Mamma

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Jar of Goodness 7.17.22: Picnics

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for picnics. Snacky meals. Appetizers. Tapas.

Whatever. That’s all. Just the magical way you can take a bunch of odds and ends . . . a leftover piece of ham or sausage. A piece or two of cheese. The end of a loaf of bread or some crackers. A pickle, some olives. A carrot, a crown of broccoli, some fruit. Maybe just a handful of raisins, a handful of nuts. Maybe there’s a few chocolate morsels. Something nice to drink . . .

. . . And make a fabulous tray of delectable morsels.

July is supposedly national picnic month. I encourage everyone to get creative with the stuff in your kitchen and make a little party for yourself. Eat it on the patio, or the back porch steps. Or find a park bench somewhere.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Nancy Drew

Dad’s been clearing miscellaneous historic artifacts out of his garage, and in the process he’s been uncovering deeply buried boxes of my youthful treasures, which (of course) include books. Recently we carried home a box full of my old Nancy Drew books. (Yes, Dad wrote the label on the box.)

I think it’s time for a few reminiscences of my first object for binge-reading: Nancy Drew mysteries. I think it’s the only mystery series I’ve ever been glued to (unless you count Harry Potter). I’m just not “into mysteries.”

Interestingly, I’ve found that a lot of professional editors are avid mystery readers. Isn’t that curious? Maybe it’s because mystery novels reward close, careful readers who have good memories. (“Wait, back in chapter three, didn’t it say that the woman who walked with a cane had red hair?”) Or perhaps the quick pace of mysteries keeps an editor so engrossed that she doesn’t have time to notice infelicities of grammar, awkward diction, or typos. Editors really don’t want to keep editing when they’re off the clock. They really don’t.

My memories of reading Nancy Drew books are pretty sketchy. I don’t remember which of them I read first, though there’s a good chance it was The Clue of the Tapping Heels. The cat on the front cover probably made it seem extra promising, since I loved cats.

I’m pretty sure my mom introduced the series to me, since she had read the books as a girl, too (in their first editions, before they were all significantly revised in the fifties, sixties, and seventies). She provided me with her 1931 edition of The Secret of Red Gate Farm.

Mom says she and her sister, Anna Mae, and her sister’s friend Lucille Loesch traded the Nancy Drew books. I guess that’s why Lucille’s name is written in this copy. I’m not sure who penciled in the extra decorations for the endpapers illustrations.

I remember that once I got into them, I shopped for Nancy Drew books at the Missouri Book Store, which was located on the former Lowry Street (now Lowry Mall) on the MU campus (it’s where the so-called Student Success Center is located now).

The Missouri Book store was the scene of many, many youthful book purchases for my brother and me. We went all over that place. The second floor must have been where the trade books were displayed, because I remember making a beeline up those stairs, especially later, when I was devouring science fiction paperpacks.

Mom and Dad indulged us when it came to buying books, and I’m forever grateful.

No matter which bookstore my family visited (and we pretty much entered every bookstore we saw, and they’d always have to pretty much drag me out it, each time), I remember poring over the tantalizing array of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books on the sales shelves.

I’d inspect the series list of titles printed on the back of each of those hardcover books, trying to figure out which I’d read and which I still “had to read.”

It was slightly hard for me to keep them straight, since I’m pretty sure that, in addition to the books I was accumulating on my shelf at home, I had also read several Nancy Drews from the library. (Mom and Dad took us to the public library regularly, too.)

At this point, it’s hard for me to remember much about reading them, except that I devoured them and that I definitely saw something of myself in the characters—whether I “read” Nancy as someone I wanted to be, or whether I “read” her as someone I wanted to be around, to have as a good friend, I can’t quite say. Was I looking out, or in? It was probably a mixture of both emulation and, well, longing. I think I kind of wanted a sister.

For sure, it was refreshing to read story after story—to enter a world—where females had agency, opinions, goals, gumption, risk, and reward, and where males were there for decoration, or because they were agents serving the plot, notably as the bad guys, but also as policemen; fathers with cash, useful friends, and connections; or plot-device boyfriends—Ned Nickerson—who show up in the nick of time in a deus ex machina fashion.

I enjoy reading old books, and I’m sometimes astounded when I stop to realize how ingrained the masculine perspective used to be. It wasn’t until the 1980s, I think, when writers (and their editors) really started systematically letting go of the “woman doctor” designation, or terms like “mankind” or “manmade” or “the progress of man.” Yet even today, the protagonists of our entertainments (literary or in other media) are still mostly masculine. Or, when they’re females, their fundamental motivations are still usually romantic love, looks, or children. True, there are more female protagonists in adventures, but it seems they always have to have a love scene, always have to show they ultimately just want to be with their guy, where they can let themselves feel vulnerable, which is what every woman ultimately wants. (Give me a break.)

Plenty of women have written about the influence of Nancy Drew on their lives, and I don’t need to repeat any of that. But as Sue and I have been looking at these books, reading them out loud to each other in the evenings, laughing at times, rolling our eyes at others, I’ve been thinking hard about how they helped form my perceptions of the world. Here are some things I’ve noticed.

  • Nancy’s a do-gooder. She chooses to help people instead of pursuing her own comforts. She doesn’t hesitate to help others, buying a lunch for someone who’s just been robbed, or hiring a taxi for someone who’s suffered an accident. She can do this, because she’s—
  • Blessed with money, class standing, and freedom. She has her own car (at age 16/18, during the Depression or World War II, or the sixties or seventies, depending on the edition), and she can go wherever she wants. She doesn’t (have to) have a job, so she can do things whenever she wants. Her dad’s a lawyer and has his own, flexible schedule, making few demands on her time. Because her dad’s a lawyer, she gets lots of perks; the cops always give her the benefit of a doubt, and they often bend over backward to help her. With a mother-like, live-in housekeeper, Nancy isn’t stuck doing all the drudgery any other only-daughter of a single father would be stuck doing. And if she had a mom instead of a mom-like housekeeper, Nancy would be stuck in the kitchen, or the laundry room, or whatever (“go help your mom”).
  • Nancy and her chums frequently teach us what not to do. Heavy foreshadowing and obvious details planted before a mishap teach the youthful reader to pay attention to warning signs and red flags. You can see it coming from a mile away. The day before Nancy’s motorboat motor gives out in the middle of a lake, an excursion in the same boat had another girl mentioning, “gee, this motor quits working suddenly sometimes, I’m so glad it’s working today!” Countless are the times that Nancy or someone else goes off investigatin’ all alone, at night, or into a dark cavern, and either falls into a hole and gets stuck, or gets grabbed with a rough hand clapped across her mouth and is then bound and gagged: you should have told someone where you were going! Or, you shouldn’t have gone alone. And people who are mean and aggressive in small ways tend to be mean and aggressive in others.
  • Fortunately, since these are books for youths, the pickles Nancy and her chums get into are never as dark as they’d be in real life. When bad guys catch the good guys, they usually tie them up, gag them, and leave them somewhere. Chloroform is used a lot. People are bopped on the head and knocked out pretty frequently, but they always come around with the aid of water and having their hands and wrists rubbed. It’s a far cry from the violence and terrorization you’d expect in a grown-up crime scenario.
  • Nancy also teaches out what we should do. In addition to being faultlessly thoughtful, kind, helpful, demure (she doesn’t take payment for her services, and she downplays kudos after she’s saved the day), she is also very often prepared, resourceful, knowledgeable, quick-witted, diplomatic, observant, and circumspect. When her car gets stuck in a muddy ditch, she grabs sticks and brush and stuff to wedge under her wheels for traction. When it’s time for her to travel to France, she’s in good shape because she already knows French. And she knows when to keep her thoughts to herself. She knows how to draw out people, get them talking, get them to blurt out a confession. She also seems to value her intuition without giving it too much weight.
  • Her friends, George and Bess, represent opposing and complementary impulses. This type of character trio occurs all over in stories, ranging from the Kirk-Spock-McCoy trio in Star Trek to Harry-Hermione-Ron in Harry Potter to Blossom-Buttercup-Bubbles in the Powerpuff Girls. George, the tomboy, is brash, assertive, impulsive, physical, and rather fearless; essentially too masculine. Bess is self-indulgent, lazy, timid, prone to paralyzing fear, soft, essentially too feminine. Nancy, though, is “just right,” so she’s the natural leader; she filters the impulses represented by her chums through her intellect, intuition, hindsight, and foresight. She’s got uncommonly good common sense.
  • The men are “types.” Nancy’s dad is perfection: kind, humorous, gentle, strong, smart, wise, and wealthy. George Clooney, or a generation earlier, Cary Grant, plays him in the movie adaptation. (John Forsythe played him in the grown-up TV version called Charlie's Angels.) And Nancy’s tall, dark, and handsome college football quarterback boyfriend tends to show up just in the Ned-Nickerson of time—when it’s time to move a big, heavy beam out of a tunnel when people are trapped by a cave-in—or at occasions when Nancy needs a male date at a dance. Otherwise, he, like Carson Drew, is kind of flat. The other men in the tales are flatter still; bad guys with low-slung jaws and gruff voices; or shifty-eyed, thin-lipped guys with sharp, cutting voices; or they are kind, elderly, white-haired gentlemen in need of respect and care; or they are helpful, handsome guest stars who help solve mysteries while possibly offering red herrings to the reader by constantly being absent when mysterious bad stuff occurs. Mostly, you can tell bad guys by the way they are described; handsome, candid, gentle men turn out to be good, while people who are ugly and express cruelty, impatience, or an argumentative nature turn out to be bad. (Usually.) See the comment about red flags above.
  • A lot of women are types, too, but it seems to me that Nancy Drew’s female characters are slightly more nuanced than the men. Is it just me? Or maybe it’s that Nancy Drew lives in a kind of gender-segregated world, where womenfolk tend to stick together, commiserate with one another, share confidences, help each other, while men and boys are off doing their male-things. It wasn’t that long ago that women did indeed stick to their own realm, and men with theirs, and children tended to be told to hang out with their own gender.

The gender thing is really interesting; Nancy Drew was clearly written for female readers, as a kind of complement to the Hardy Boys series, which was apparently intended to appeal to boys. As a kid, I did read a few Hardy Boys books, but I basically “stayed in my lane” and stuck to my Nancy Drews. Why is that? Like any other female reader, I’m used to imagining myself as the masculine protagonist, merely because there’d be a dearth of worthwhile things to read if I could not. But the idea that females could be the star, could have agency, could rely on themselves, was indeed empowering. As a female, you know you have a brain and opinions, you can make choices and do things; but it was and still is unusual to see females depicted as independent of men. And as a girl, I knew I could have plenty of my own adventures and fun without my brother’s “help.” N.D. reflected that in a way I could envision for a future.

Another thing that has occurred to me as I reread these stories long, long after I initially read them is, How did I picture all this stuff before I had much in my head to build mental images on? I suppose it’s the magic of literature—the ability for written prose to allow you to mentally picture things you’ve never seen before. But it is an especially fascinating question for juvenile literature. How do I picture an Arizona ranch when I don’t really know what Arizona is? What do cactuses and scrub trees really look like on a landscape? What’s a bridle? What’s a brake pedal? How do I picture a train station when I’ve never been to one? In one story, Nancy’s department store “charge plate” figures into the mystery. What’s a charge plate? Even today, I had to look it up. When I was young, what could I have pictured? A dinner plate? I might’ve just mentally shrugged, kind of “blipped” over it as an unknowable thing, and zoomed ahead with the story having only the vaguest comprehension.

And I was pretty young when I read Nancy Drew. Mom is fond of telling people about how I was in second grade and reading these “chapter” books. Mom says that she went to one of her parent-teacher conferences, and the teacher expressed dissatisfaction with my attention or the enthusiasm I was showing during reading period.

Mom asked her, “well, what are you reading in class?” And the teacher told her, “oh, we’re reading the Little Brown Bears series” (or whatever). To which Mom responded, “Oh, well, no wonder—Julie’s reading Nancy Drew books at home!” “Oh, goodness, that explains why she’s not interested in the Little Brown Bears! I’ll find some more appropriate materials for her!” (Well, something must’ve worked.)

I have absolutely no memory of the Little Brown Bears. But I’m pretty sure that the Clue of the Tapping Heels was my first Nancy Drew book. Ha-ha-ha today, it’d be about the last one I’d select.

So from about 1973 to 1975 (second and third grade), I devoured Nancy Drew books. I proudly accumulated the volumes and kept them in numerical order on my shelf.

Somehow I got my mitts on metallic gold ink and carefully scratched my name onto the covers with it. I’m pretty sure it was a fountain pen.

Writing my name in gold ink was much classier than scrawling my name on the front endpapers with a magic marker.

My signature was putrid compared to that of Lucille Loesch’s in the thirties or early forties . . .

Maybe Lucille was reading them at a slightly older age than when I read them. The versions I read had been revised, shortened, and apparently kind of dumbed-down for a younger audience.

I even got the Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking, for whatever that was worth.

The cookbook didn’t appeal to me much. I learned one recipe out of it, but the book otherwise didn’t have much impact on me.

Like several other seventies cookbooks, some of the ideas seem regrettable in retrospect.

In the mid-seventies, they were churning out a bunch of new Nancy Drew mysteries, and suddenly they seemed to be appearing faster than I cared to read them. Number 52, The Secret of the Forgotten City was brand new, and I felt pretty cutting-edge to be reading a fresh mystery no one had ever read before.

But the newer stories seemed to lack something that the ones composed in the thirties and forties had provided. Maybe I always knew there was something old-fashioned about the early Nancy Drews, and I liked that sense of them riding around in a roadster, instead of a convertible.

And honestly, some of the writing (and editing) was just bad, on all kinds of levels. I can see it clearly now, but back then, I could probably only sense it. For instance, today's editors eliminate almost every adverb they see. But these books are full of phrases like "announced gloatingly," "walked quickly," and "said warningly." Today it would just be stronger verbs: "gloated," "hurried," and "warned."

Or, most likely, my reading abilities and tastes were eclipsing this juvenile literature. Soon I was reading the James Blish print adaptations of Star Trek episodes. And I enjoyed some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, too. Science fiction and fantasy became my passion, big-time. But by college, when I sought a degree in English literature and really got a taste of fine-art writing, the tap had kind of turned off. Mass-market fiction started to feel like a big waste of time, just like television is a big waste of time. Compared to Donne, Austen, Joyce, Hemingway, etc., etc., it all seemed so fatuous. Nonfiction rose to the top of my interests, especially natural history essays. And there it’s stayed.

But it’s been fun going through my box of old Nancy Drew novels. I guess I will try to sell them, because I’ll bet someone else would get a kick out of revisiting Nancy and her adventures, too.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Jar of Goodness 7.10.22: First Aid Kits

. . . The weekly virtual “gratitude jar.”

This week, I’m expressing thanks for first aid kits.

Now hold on! It’s not what you think. I haven’t had an accident! I’m fine.

But after my car died, I went and visited it and pulled out all my personal possessions, including all the impacted stuff down by the spare tire, hidden under the trunk flooring. And I made some discoveries.

I had been driving around with not one, but two first aid kits! Both very old. When I got the 2003 Civic in January 2004, my parents got me a brand-new first aid kit to go in it.

But I also had the first aid kit they’d gotten for me when they bought my 1989 Civic, too! And so both of these kits ended up in the 2003 Civic. One was stored by the spare tire, the other in a backpack that holds miscellaneous spare stuff. A change of clothes, a toothbrush, some rope, some wire, an emergency blanket, a flashlight (batteries dead, of course), a Schrade multi-tool and its holder, an old, second-edition copy of the National Geographic Society’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America, and other necessary essentials.

And here’s the gratitude bit: I’ve never had to use either of these first aid kits. I mean, not since 1989. I’m racking my brain, but I can’t think of a time I even used a single band-aid out of them. Not for me or for anyone else. I can’t think of a time when I even used the kits’ scissors for something mundane, like clipping a coupon out of a paper. (Sure, I've had accidents and needed band-aids and stuff, but I've never had to bust into these kits while on the road.)

(I’ve always carried jumper cables with me, too, but although I used them plenty of times with my 1989 Civic, I’ve never needed them for the ’03, in part because we’ve had AAA for so long.)

My sense of gratitude is multiplied by the fact that these kits were both gifts from my parents. What a nice thing to give someone—a first aid kit. You know . . . just in case.

But here’s the kicker: about a week before my car died, Sue had just acquired a brand-new first aid kit for the Civic. She got it along with some other over-the-counter stuff (for free or discounted or something) as a perk with Medicare. Was this third first aid kit some kind of sign, or omen? In retrospect, it seems uncanny.

Anyway, I’m amused by it, but mostly I feel grateful. I feel well-cared-for, both by the people who love me and, in a sense, by good fortune, or Someone up above.

For fun, here are the contents lists and contents of the three kits. The most striking difference is that the 2022 kit has a single sheet of paper, printed on both sides and folded, as the entire first aid instructions. The previous two kits have regular little booklets. I guess everyone’s supposed to be able to turn on a phone and Google for medical advice now. Hope your batteries last!

Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit, ca. 1989

American Medical Association First Aid Kit, ca. 2003

Equate First Aid Kit, 2022