Mom & Dad – Contrasts and Opposites

Mom lived best as a hamster.  Ever notice how long it takes a hamster to fix its home after a cleaning?  The fresh papers are shredded, strewn and piled until there’s cave-potential in the wad of messiness. 

Representative of Mom's Space.

Representative of Mom’s Space.

Thankfully my two older sisters showed the rest of us how a clean and tidy home could look.  Not that my sisters and I  appreciated giving up our Saturdays to make the house presentable enough to allow a young man to come in when he picked us up for a date. 

Mother’s soul made up for her lack of domesticity though full appreciation comes late for a kid.  My girl friends didn’t bat an eye at the clutter and muddle of the place when they came over.  They headed for a seat near Mom and the conversation was full of respect, genuine interest and a challenge to rethink the obvious.  When my closest friend found herself pregnant at 17, even before she confessed to me, she came to Mom.  She said Mom listened and asked “really great” questions; then gave Ruth the opportunity to practice breaking the news to her upper middle class, Catholic family.  Ruth ended up marrying the young father who was still her sweetheart when he died some 40 years later. 

The other contrast in our home?  My father’s workshop.  I loved having him home for a good break because it meant he’d bring new ideas for making “his space” the tidiest part of the house.  Everything had its place and all was organized in such a way no tool or article had to be searched for.  I was certain he invented the use of old sandwich spread jars holding different sized nails or screws or washers. Every item used to organize that soothing workspace was recycled or created. 

When I wanted Dad to myself, I’d join him in the workshop and keep him company while he worked.  Likely I drove him crazy with my questions.  His father, an Alberta farmer, had also been the town’s “Smithy”. Grandpa’s Irish heritage had instilled a love for a good story and a large dose of self-sufficient inventiveness.  The gift was passed to my father.

When something broke, Dad’s first consideration was how to fix it.  If a part couldn’t be repaired, a duplicate part would have to be created.  We never simply replaced it – nor bought the parts to get it working again.  Dad fixed everything in the home, on his car, on our person and, especially, in a little girl’s heart. 

The Sense of Dad's Space

The Sense of Dad’s Space

Thankfully when he helped put my heart back together, the result was tidier than some of the other jobs he pulled off.  Dad’s main drive was to get the “danged thing workin’ again!” – it didn’t have to be pretty.  It didn’t matter that the repair was messily, but proudly displayed like a 10 year old’s new cast after a battle in sports. 

As Dad aged and began spending more time at home, his creative urges took him to his workshop more often.  He began building household accessories.  These innovations weighed heavily on the side of convenience and did little for aesthetics.  Come to think of it, the floor ashtray made out of pipes and a metal drum was only convenient in its height.  To empty it, one had to cart the entire aperture to the garbage.  Washing it was more than a struggle. 

In my teen years, I was generally the last kid still at home.  When I heard saws, drills, grinders or sanders whining from the workshop below, I’d roll my eyes, “Oh no, Mom…now what’s he making?!”

In my home today, a beat up old green tool box, gifted from Dad, contains tools, gadgets and even some gismos I don’t have a clue how to use.  Dad presented it with the assurance it contained the basic needs of every household – and beyond.  There’s an awl for punching holes in leather.  There’s a little hand saw for cutting through metal.  It holds wires snips, needle nose pliers, screw drivers of every size, etc.  It even includes a hunting knife with his initials engraved in the blade encased in a jerry-rigged holder so it would fit on his belt. 

My prize possession, however, is his axe.  It’s cut many years of my winter wood.  As I chop, I imagine he’s sitting on one of the rounds gently giving me instructions about placing the wood properly.  He probably cringes every time I misjudge a swing and whack the bottom of the handle on the log.  He had drilled a hole through the metal of the blade big enough to fit over the head of a nail.  I remember how he slowly handed it to me, “Now this is a great axe.  You make sure you hang it up every time you finish with it.  Don’t let the blade rust.” 

When something quits working in my home, my first thought is how I can fix it even though my skills and knowledge are sadly lacking.  The joy of accomplishing some pesky repair matches the news of winning a prize.  If it stymies my inventiveness, I take a hike down the road to my local lumber store.  It’s a bit like coming home.  I tell one of the workers my dilemma and ask about some creative way to fix it.  They love the challenge.  It’s like having my Dad at my elbow. 

I grin when one of those ingenious, helpful fellows wrap their creative suggestion with, “You want it to look good…”




26 thoughts on “Mom & Dad – Contrasts and Opposites

  1. Such a touching painting of your roots, Amy. Perhaps my husband is a distant relative of your dad–he’s brilliant at fixing things. His garage is a bit like your mom’s nest…the bane of my perfectionistic existence until he rescues something that needs fixing!

    • I have a friend like your husband. He just popped by yesterday to announce he was hiring a fellow to haul away a whole bunch of stuff he has stored in a HUGE shed. He’s sincerely distraught about it! There’s this “grasp” that the day after it goes, he’ll need it for sure and no one else has one!

    • You are a dear for saying that, Michael. I finally have the answer to why I’m not keen on writing a book. I’m an observer. I LOVE human nature and writing about it in bits and pieces. But if I had to stick with one L-O-N-G thread for a whole book, I’d be bored. Oddly, I don’t like reading short stories, but love essays. So blogging began at a perfect time for me! And you, my beloved fellow blogger, were one of the people who kept me going when I first started. I nearly gave up but you commented and I checked out your blog. I saw you were a good writer and decided to listen to you. Many thanks. If I had quit, I probably would have sat on my passion until my soul leaked tears!

  2. I have heard many times that couples who are opposite to each other are more compatible! Probably they combine all the essential elements and values required to be passed on. This post proves the age old wisdom once again! Sometimes I wonder how much we can share if we turn our attention to such tiny, loving details of our life. Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, Balroop, I’ve heard about opposites attracting, as well. Differences can certainly attract, but with time, if the differences are too plentiful, a crack can turn into a chasm. My parents spent most of their marriage apart; then when retirement arrived, they had to learn to live together. There were some fun days! However, if they were apart from each other for two days, they’d begin to miss one another. They’d been married 65 years when Dad died and mom lived another 7 years. So she was a married woman for 72 years! Phew.

    • I agree, Dee – just the right amount of differences. A dollop of challenge keeps the juices flowing. Who wants monotone… I hope you’re grinning – ’cause I know your sweetheart was anything BUT monotone!

    • Thanks to human nature, Marion, there’s always a good piece of work to be done in relationships. We just have to make sure we strive to be “good material” for the other to work with!

    • Great-great grandchildren who are now growing up may one day discover something about themselves if they ever visit this site. As I head for my more senior years, I’d love to have stories about even my grandparents! Even having a photo of them is a thrill.

      • I couldn’t agree with you more. Many family things that have happened have been lost because they were never written. Photos were a luxury when my grandmother was a child. It wasn’t affordable. I suppose it’s the reason why blogging is very popular. It’s about the story telling of our lives for our grandchildren to read. Keep on writing …. 😘

  3. I learned the confidence to fix stuff from my Dad and brothers. Standing by while some guy fixes something is hard for me to take. Of course, I don’t do plumbing, so I’m stuck there. My mom gave me a love of flowers, art, and home-made food. I feel blessed to have had that combination!

    • When I have to hire a repairman, I don’t stand by. If it’s a really competent person, I go find something to do – feeling full of glory. If they’re not, I leave even faster – it’s too agonizing.

      I adore going to the lumber shop down the road. I look for a certain size nail and the guy shows me their bin of ‘leftovers’ – free for the taking. “Take the whole bucket if you need them!” Or I need a certain size tarp to put over some wood that needs to season. “Go out back and help yourself to the plastic covers we’ve taken off our loads of lumber. Here’s a blade…cut the size you need.” Every once in a while I find something to buy just to let them know I remember they’re a business!

  4. Hi Amy – haven’t been for a while .. but saw this post and felt I needed to read .. and I sure did .. loved it and it brought back memories of my home, yet your home … we had some outdoor buildings and a workshop … and my father gave me a canvas bag full of basic goodies for the home .. not an axe though … and I still repair or utilise something else, but I’m afraid I do also revert to buying another easier thing …

    But you’ve reminded me of how rural life was after the War … early fifties … thanks … but my mother wasn’t a hamster .. she was a doer … as too my Dad, though things were never easy for them … cheers Hilary

    • Hi Hilary! So good to hear from you. There’s a very special place in my heart for all those bloggers who were so supportive, of me, yes, but also with each other, back in our beginning days.

      My mother actively used her brain – it was always “on”. My dad’s intelligence manifested differently and I still appreciate what each taught. If I had to depict them in a painting, it would be something like this: a brilliant star with a comet tail spotlights one point on the planet where lush growth and animals abound.

  5. What a great piece of your dad to hang onto, the toolbox of life! My mom was also not much of a housekeeper but my friends loved her dearly. This, at a time in my life when I felt mostly contempt for her weirdness. I was so ignorant.

    • Yah, Linda, I loved having part-time jobs so I didn’t have to shop with Mom! Poor Mom trying to deal with the preferences of a kid 40 years younger! And during teen years I gleaned lots of “mom wisdom” while eavesdropping on conversations between my friends and her – as opposed to my talking directly with her about those “sensitive” subjects.

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