Repurposers and upcyclers raised me. It was the only way, I think, back in the lean depression, WWII, and post war years. It was second nature for our mother to rip apart out-grown clothes and perform a bodice transplant on an old school dress. Sheets became pillow cases or cleaning rags. Mother salvaged buttons off shirts “just in case” they matched and could stand in for a lost button. She made a beautiful prom dress for Georgie the Elder out of curtain material.
I didn’t know what Tupperware was until I got in-laws. It would have killed Mother’s soul to throw away a plastic butter tub or glass jar. That was our Tupperware. When I cleaned out cabinets after Mother died, there were legions of tubs and jars waiting to store leftovers. I love drawing; my first sketch pads were envelopes, the backs of letters, and paper left at the high school mimeograph machine. Our stockpile of pencils were discards from our dad’s office and we used them until they were nubs.
We didn’t often throw away food. Sunday night supper was sandwiches cut from Sunday noon’s roast with leftovers chipped up and used for stew on Monday. Whatever we had for dinner on Tuesday night was lunch on Wednesday. Frijoles were a side dish with enchiladas on one night, chalupas on another night, and bean soup for Friday lunch.
It wasn’t deprivation. It was repurposing at its best.
I wish I could say I’m that kind of thrifty soul. I use jars for glasses and make mosaics out of broken dishes. I have plenty of plastic lunch meat and butter tubs to store my leftovers in. I am that kind of messy woman so I have way more cleaning rags from shirts than I’ll ever need. Bob’s work lunch is always the previous night’s dinner. It makes me happy when we turn roast chicken or turkey to pot pie to soup. I feel like Franken-cook. And I love it.
Since I joined the Pinterest ranks, I’ve found many more ways to repurpose and upcycle. I’m saving tin cans for luminairies to accent tables at an upcoming baby shower. It pleases me to know that the cans will get a new life and candlelight was brighten the house.
I am in awe of people who see a discard on the street and give it new life. Or look at some scrap and find a way to put it to use.
As kids we had tire swings, but I wouldn’t have thought about tire planters.
We use street brooms at work and I had never thought there was a market for the brooms when they get too worn.
The whole idea of repurposing and upcycling is pretty beautiful if you come to think of it. I got upcycled when I got sober. And repurposed when my son Jack died. There’s a saying that The two most important days in your life are when you are born and when you find out why.
I’m not sure you just get to find out why one time. I spent most of my growing up time thinking I’d teach school. I found that I love building things and that working in construction is my calling.
I spent years drinking alcohol to obscure reality. I was going to say wine because that sounds a little classier but I wasn’t picky. I found that I love being a sober woman. As for reality? Meh. But being of use to others, strangers and friends, lets me repurpose my experience as a drunk mom. That’s why it’s a great upcycle.
I can’t ever say I was a great mom, but I love my children passionately. I’ve always felt that no matter where I am, I am home when I am with my kids. The feeling of home extends to my four grandchildren, too. Touching their hands, Georgie’s so strong and competent, Jack’s slender and always busy, is a deep and calming breath to me. When Jack died, I became involuntarily repurposed.
I didn’t stop being a mother. I am still the mother of two children. But I am the mother of a son who has died. Color it any way you like. Many mothers in Compassionate Friends say their child is in the spirit world. Or they refer to the anniversary of their child’s death as an Angel Date. I can’t play with words like that. The old reality problem, you know.
What I’ve found is that I am uniquely able to talk to parents who are trying to get clean and sober and who have suffered the death of a child. Just like my friend in Oklahoma who is in recovery and who lost two children a decade ago reached out and helped me get through the days and months after Jack died, I can do the same. She said, “I never asked to be the poster child for Sober Mothers Who Have Lost a Child, but I am. That’s what I do.”
That’s what I do, too. I can’t pretend like I am the only person who has felt this grief when I’m sitting next to a mom who has just suffered the loss of their child. It’s hard to isolate if I’m reaching out.
I can’t see it as an upcycle, but it is a repurpose that I believe in.