My grandmother was the epitome of saving and not wasting. Old foil was gently folded to be used again, paper towels were cut into quarter-sheet squares, and shopping bags were tucked in every nook and cranny to be used for a thousand different things. She raised my mom that way, and growing up in the 70s, mom was militant about our family’s care of our planet.
Life here in PNG is filled with lots of discoveries, great and small. So please allow me a moment of personal reflection …
I think I’ve discovered something here that my mom would be pretty impressed with when it comes to using up things and not wasting the last little bit. For years now, my morning shower has been an exercise in futility using up the last of the bar of soap. You understand – the piece gets so small that it’s impossible to hold on to, and besides, it hardly makes any suds at all anyway.
I must admit – hold on to your recycling badge mom! – that I’ve always resorted to tossing that tiny piece of soap into the drain where over the next couple of showers it disintegrates and disappears down the drain.
Recently, as I carried a new bar of soap into the shower with me, I laid it on top of the tiny piece of soap that was awaiting its eventual doom down the drain, while I checked the water temperature and soaked my head. When I was ready to wash my face, I noticed that the new bar had picked up a hitchhiker – that little leftover lump had latched on!
Instead of scraping the stowaway away and tossing it into the drain, I centered that little lump into the decorative recessed logo on the new bar and cupped my hand over it, squeezing them together for a moment. They fused together, and at the end of my shower, I laid the bar with its new parasitic appendage on the underside so that the weld would hold. Voila – not an ounce of waste!
Dear reader, you must understand … this is HUGE in the family from which I was formed. This was all preamble to talking about my grandmother, Nadine Briley. She was the ultimate recycler, reducer, reuser. In fact, she bordered on the nuts! (Admit it, Mom, and stop the feigning offence. I see that grin!)
One of my favorite examples was the story of today’s peaches.
Our family of six was visiting grandma and grandpa in Wichita for vacation. Mom was always good at finding cheap adventures that would be educational and entertaining, and so the family all went to the peach orchard one day. There are few simple pleasures that can match pulling a sun-warmed peach from the tree and biting into the soft fuzzy sweetness, letting the juice drip down your chin.
We came home with small bags filled with the fuzzed fruits, in anticipation of enjoying their goodness over the next few days during our visit.
The next day it was discovered that a few of the peaches had been picked at the peak of their ripeness, and by now had developed over-ripe brown spots all over them. But the rest of them still looked like perfect peaches. However, it was also discovered that grandma had sorted the peaches according to their relative ripeness, and she proudly proclaimed that the browned overripe fruits were today’s peaches. We could simply cut out the browned parts and enjoy the rest, she insisted, and in that way the still good peaches would be saved for the next day.
The family tried in vain to convince grandma that mathematically and culinarily it made sense to pitch the pitiful peaches and enjoy the good fruit each day. No amount of logic could prevail – and for the remainder of the week, we all dutifully sat with knife in hand to cut out the bad spots and enjoy what remained of today’s peach.