I keep a wooden-handled broom outside, by the back door. Because of its location, I'm unable to hang it on a wall, so it simply rests on the floor. Yesterday, as I prepared to sweep the back step, I noticed that the broom has become quite useless. Instead of the straw bristles being flat on the end as a broom's should be, they now formed a rather awkward L shape. This makes it all but impossible to sweep.
All this would seem rather insignificant in a busy day of high-tech living except for my dear grandmother.
Grandmother valued everything she owned. She viewed each item in her household with a gratitude that made a simple glass candy dish seem like a Tiffany treasure. In the early years of her marriage, she and Grandpa kept a log of all their expenses down to the penny.
When my mother was born, Grandma needed more space for her child to sleep. So she tore down an old chicken coop, straightened out the bent nails, and scrubbed each board until it was clean. She and Grandpa built a new porch onto their tiny home for my mother to sleep on using that old chicken coop material. I never asked her how she kept it warm. They lived in the Northwest.
Grandma's stories of thrift and creative living were many, so I should have expected something like the following. But I stood in awe as yet another lesson was learned about value.
I was a young mother, newly discovering the art of caring for a home. I went for a visit to my grandparents' lakefront cabin on Lake Chelan, Wash.
By this time, my grandparents had progressed well beyond their humble beginnings and the chicken-coop porch.
Helping Grandma clean the kitchen, I decided to sweep the floor. But the broom on the back porch was so old! The bristles looked much like the ones I described above, only worse; they were extremely L-shaped. Brooms being quite inexpensive and now even made of durable plastic, I told Grandma that she needed a new, more modern broom.
She looked right at me and said that I gave up too easily.
"Watch this!" she exclaimed as she took the tired-looking broom from me. She then filled the sink with very hot water and plunked the straw end of the broom into it. It soaked for a while as I watched, trying to imagine what Grandma was doing.
Grandma vigorously bent and urged the softened bristles. They were straight, now, but quite ragged-looking. Grandma pulled out a cutting board and a bread knife and, holding the broom bristles firmly, she sawed off the ragged ends of the straw.
The task completed, she proudly produced a newish - except shorter - version of a straight-edged, useful broom. It worked wonderfully.
I can still feel the joy and satisfaction Grandma radiated as she handed me that broom so I could finish my job. That was more than 30 years ago. My grandma isn't with us anymore, but I find it difficult saying that. Because when I looked at my L-shaped broom yesterday, I'm sure I heard her say to me, "Ginny, what are you going to do about this?"
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