Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gifts from our parents

We finished the window in the chicken coop today. The window had one piece of original glass remaining, rippled and dotted with air bubbles from the manufacturing process many years ago. We needed to replace 3 of the panes; fortunately, our house came with a supply of window glass in the barn attic, so I cut 3 new pieces of glass for the window from inventory.

My dad owned a hardware store in a small town in Maine. From a teenager's perspective, it was not a glamorous occupation for a dad. It was hard work, made more difficult by the early days of big box stores sweeping in to put the little guys out of business. The store was open 7 days a week, and in emergencies – frozen pipes, a tree limb blown through a window, the phone would ring in the wee hours and my dad would agree to open the store to help out in an emergency.

My siblings and I all worked in the hardware store off an on, to help out, although it was never a favorite occupation. There was an old fashioned cash register, with a wooden drawer and a pull handle. All the calculations were completed manually, then the total was punched, the handle pulled, and the drawer would spring open. Most folks paid in cash, so you’d count out their change from the drawer. There was no computer chip figuring it out for you – it was all manual, or maybe I should say mental.

Working in the store, I learned to cut keys on the key machine, cut and thread pipe, weigh out nails and screws, and cut glass. Even 30 years later, I still know more about hardware than your average big-box store employee. Little did I know back then how incredibly useful all those skills would be. As the proud owner of an antique Cape, knowing basic plumbing skills has come in very handy, as has a knowledge of basic hardware and carpentry, and this morning, I didn’t even think twice about cutting the glass.

As painful as it was at the time, I appreciate all those skills now. Thanks, Dad.

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