After decades of marriage, I embrace his pack-rat ways

From the day I met him more than 30 years ago, I knew my husband would be the perfect mate - except maybe for his inability to let go of anything. The term "pack rat" comes to mind.

"I'll find a use for it, don't you worry. And don't throw anything away."

He said that when I wanted to throw away his collection of bright red plastic sheeting. He'd brought home stacks of it after rescuing it from the trash cans in the factory where he mixed rubber and poured it into molds.

"It has value. Just hold on to it," he said.

Originally the plastic had packaged some ingredient needed to make mud flaps and feed pans.

But, he was right. We cut the plastic into strips and tied them around bent and rusty wire coat hangers (another item he wouldn't let me discard). First he'd stretched the hangers into circles, then we tied on the bright red strips, bunching them together as tightly as we could until we had decorative Christmas wreaths. Perfect for outside use, the wreaths multiplied. We gave them as gifts, we hung them on the doors, windows, the bird feeder, and the mailbox - we even bent a few of the hangers into hearts and brought them out for Valentine's Day.

Thirty years later, I still have a few of those wreaths stored away. The plastic hasn't degraded one iota.

With my husband's job change came a new collection. He now sits behind a desk balancing accounts and calculating payrolls for thousands of employees. Every week he receives several CDs loaded with facts and figures that he incorporates into reports. The information quickly becomes obsolete and the CDs can't be reburned. Now, after several years, he has a stack of CDs that - you guessed it - he saved from the trash and brought home.

He's attempted to turn the shiny disks into Christmas ornaments, since the wreaths had been such a hit. His first effort, a Christmas tree wall decoration, just looked like a lot of CDs overlapping in an evergreen-tree shape. Then he strung them on a wire coat hanger, but they simply looked like CDs on a coat hanger. CDs multiplied, and my itch to clean the basement grew stronger.

It was in our little vegetable garden this past spring that my crafty husband hit upon a way to recycle the CDs.

We marked the rows with stakes and string. Then we painstakingly sowed the seeds, patted dirt over them, and awaited the harvest.

But when plants started to sprout, we watched a steady stream of chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, and deer head for our garden.

One day we saw rows of leafy shoots and the next day rows of holes where they'd been ripped out of the ground.

The next morning, I awoke to find my husband's side of the bed cold. Stumbling toward the window, I saw him standing beside a most amazing sight: Dozens of CDs were suspended in midair, encircling our garden.

My husband was a child when some enterprising person invented disposable food packaging. My husband's mom had run string around her garden and attached aluminum-foil pie pans and trays from TV dinners. They clattered in the breeze, confounding the predators long enough for us to harvest most of what had been planted.

Instead of aluminum trays and pie pans, my husband tied metallic, blue-and-gold CDs on a rope he had strung around our garden. As if by magic, the glittery disks seemed to float in the breeze, dangling from nearly invisible fishing line (another "do not discard" item). The CDs reflected the light and clinked together in a most unnatural harmony.

I applauded his solution. We enjoyed the harvest from our second planting of corn, and now l look upon his collection of frayed socks and empty CD cases with anticipation and understanding.

After decades of marriage I embrace his pack-rat ways, knowing they extend to our marriage, too. Like the wreaths, we benefit from his ingenuity and our relationship hasn't degraded one iota.

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