The Pillars of the World

When I was little, the world was immutable and safe.  No, really.  Even though I was very sickly and always at risk of death, so I always understood I was mortal, and also was very versed on what happened after death, because in those nights when I lay awake struggling for each aching breath, I reviewed all my options.  (I had come to the conclusion that as final judgement went I’d best cry a lot and throw myself on the mercy of the court by the time I was four.)  I would lay awake waiting for light to filter through the interior window (to the living room where light came in through the glass on the doors.  It was a shotgun apartment) sure that if the sun came up I’d be better.  Weirdly this was often true.

BUT other than the ever present fear of dying — and that wasn’t unsafe as such, as grandma’s stories gave me a map for what was on the other side, and I didn’t doubt her — the world was secure and immutable.  Oh, and things never wore out.

There were things like my old diapers we used to do the dusting.  They’d always been there, they’d always be there.  I had the same favorite pajamas (red flannel) from three to twelve.  How is that possible, you ask?  Mom must have added patches and layers very carefully, as I never noticed, but the pajamas grew with me, and were still my red pajamas.

I remember my shock at about 16 at realizing things could change, even fundamental “we’ve always done it this way” things.  My bath towel wore out and opened a hole.  And we changed our tea pan.  (No, I mean that.  It was a tea pan.  We made tea in a little saucepan.  I have no clue how that came to be, but my guess would be that mom got tired of teapots rusting out, the same reason I have a glass teapot.)

At twenty two I got married and spent a whole year in utter panic, because there were no “safe” touchstones.  If we failed to pay the rent, we’d be thrown out, but more importantly than that, I had NOTHING I was used to.  Everything was new.  And I was in a new country, which meant … everything was different.

Imagine my shock at realizing we’re now the pillars of the world surrounded by things that have always been so, even if we’ve moved a lot in our married life.

My older son has moved out, and I tried to pack things to go with him that will continue that sense of security, like the towels with the American flag and puppies.  Because those have been around since he was three.  And some of the “usual” bowls, and I’m ordering him replicas of some of our stuff, like the teapot.  Because to settle in it’s important to bring some of your roots with you.

But the way things change now, it seems so fast to me that I’m never shocked, in packing and moving, to find things I don’t remember at all.  Things I used/happened for only six months seem to leave no mark in my recollection of events.

And I am shocked when I find things that have been around forever.  Like, in one of the visits to Portugal I must have brought back (have vague memory) some of my nephew’s old diapers (best thing to polish furniture.)  Yesterday I was polishing furniture with this diaper and reflected that my nephew is now well over thirty, and this diaper is still around.

We are of course in a time of great change, as a family, with the move and my surgery (If I’d known I needed it, we’d have waited for the big move.  Ah, well, maybe it’s all for the best, as I needed to get out of there) and the kids apparently both moving out (though younger might wait till next year, depending when other house sells.)

And in the midst of it, I’m aware, as I was in my first year as a newlywed, that there are no certainties.  The world moves, and us with it.

The pillars of the world just aren’t there.  We float free through space and the price for freedom is insecurity.

Something that strikes me again and again when I go to Portugal is that they can’t seem to understand that the reward of insecurity is freedom.  They know, for instance, that if they get ill and can’t afford it they’ll have the crappy level of national health coverage everyone has.  It sucks, and misfires often and of course you can’t sue, because it’s the government, but they know it’s there.

In the same way they know they won’t lose their jobs, or if they do they’ll have almost the same in unemployment.

The reverse of that coin is that health care IS crappy (not in absolutes.  when it came in it was better than the competition which was village healers.  The thing is it hasn’t got much better, at least not in terms of response and responsibility, so well, everyone who can afford it has private insurance as well.  So they pay for the public health care through their taxes, and then must pay again if they want, you know, decent care.  (There are exceptions, my SIL works for the public system and is a devoted and excellent doctor who puts her patients ahead of other considerations.  But you have to be an idealist and a little crazy to do that.  Most doctors do the “required hours” for the government and then have their REAL practice.)

And not only does high unemployment payment sap any interest in finding a less than fabulous job, but jobs are hard to find, because it’s so hard to fire non-performing employees.  Also, businesses don’t get started because there are so many regulations, unless they happen under the table.  Sometimes it seems like everything in Portugal that matters happens under the table.

And yet, they shudder at the idea that when Dan lost his job we had to pay 20k for the first son’s birth.  (Until he was three, we were paying for him in installments.  We used to tell him it was so he wouldn’t be repossessed.)

And they shudder at the idea that if we’re both unemployed, as happened in 2003, we’ll have to scramble to support ourselves.

But the thing is, I look at our lifestyle and it’s … well… a lot more comfortable than theirs.  I was going to say “forty years ahead of theirs” which gives you an idea.

There is a price of course.  The price is in the lack of certainties.

I’d like the certainty of course.  The red pajamas were comfy and thinking the world has pillars is very cozy.

But I wouldn’t want it at the expense of empowering bureaucrats who make my health decisions for me and who impair the economy to the point that we know exactly what we’ll have tomorrow: a little worse than today.

Of course, we don’t have much choice just at the moment, but we’re Americans and it is important to realize that trading freedom for security is a trade and not just a high faluting trade of ideals, not just “give me liberty or give me death” but a practical trade.

You can have security or the freedom to make material progress.  You can have security or social mobility.  You can have security or the ability to start a business.  You can have security or the ability to invent and create.

It might seem a little silly to say I still prefer freedom to security in those circumstances, but I do.  A better mousetrap or a glass teapot are worth it.

Not only that but the security we’re talking about is not the security from lethal attack.  It’s more the certainty to know there will always be a little red pajamas waiting for you.

I’m old enough to survive without a little red pajamas.  It wouldn’t fit my increased mental appetite anyway.

I choose liberty.

114 responses to “The Pillars of the World

  1. Please tell me that you found that elusive thumb drive and sent the Heinleins off to school with Robert.
    Or send me his snail mail info and I’ll ship another to him directly.

  2. The argument against letting people think for themselves is that so many of them do it so badly.

    Especially those who would presume to do the thinking for others.

    • But that would be self-correcting over a long enough period of time if they were allowed to think badly and fail miserably because of it. Instead they are given artificial supports as a “kindness”.

      I see that self-fulfilling condition all the time. How many of us would blanch at the idea of substituting yield signs for most stop signs or even stop lights? We’d mostly think there would be some yahoo that would do the wrong thing and everyone would pay. Well, let the yahoo make a bad choice and wreck things. We could think of this as societal evolution. Certainly there is potential for some innocent to suffer, but there always is. It’s a certainty that the thoughtless would suffer if left to their own devices.

      • Around here, most drivers seem to think STOP is an acronym, Slow To Observe Police.

        • True, see that sort of thing all the time. But I would point out that several years ago, near my house, we had a bit of a forest fire. Once the evacuation order went out it was quite heartening to see how orderly and kindly people could be to each other. We had smoke and fire on our tails and people were still letting others into the traffic flow (at something less than a walk). Granted the speed picked up once there was a traffic cop in place to direct things, but it was still orderly without them.

          One of the things that amuses or infuriates me, depending on how the day has been, is driving out on country roads east of town and seeing someone stop at a stop sign that you can see for miles there is no cross traffic.

          There is a difference between slowing down to see if there is traffic, blowing through a stop sign without looking, and obeying a sign because it’s a sign. The last is a symbol of an emotionally retarded civilization, in my view. But then, I’m odd.

          • One of the things that amuses or infuriates me, depending on how the day has been, is driving out on country roads east of town and seeing someone stop at a stop sign that you can see for miles there is no cross traffic.

            Habit memory.

            It means that if someone misses seeing the sign and catches it at the last moment, subconciously, they’ll still stop. They won’t have to think about it, they’ll stop.

            Same way that you MUST learn to have proper following distance, and have the “their tail lights went red, I need to touch my brake” response– which saved at least one life today.
            The person that was turning across two lanes into a side road hadn’t seen the women with a stroller who were way back from the crossing lane, in the middle of the road. So that car slammed on the brakes– still out in traffic. I saw their brake lights come on while they were still in the road and hit mine before I analyzed the whole situation, and stopped a few feet short of them. If I hadn’t, I would’ve caught their tail end, sent them into the women and stroller, or I would’ve tried to dodge to the left– where there was a simi doing the full 35mph speed limit. On the right was a narrow sidewalk and a brick wall, and a bus stop.
            Which would mean my three year old daughter would get a window full of simi-bumper.
            That driver would, likewise, have nowhere to go except for head-first into the other car waiting to turn, or headfirst into the traffic going the opposite way.

            It took much longer than the event actually took to game all this out.

            That’s why there are traffic laws– the most likely situations are gamed out, and rules built around them, so that people have a good idea what the likely responses will be, and they can then identify what choices won’t result in the “excuse me” dance (Familiar to anyone who’s been walking down the middle of an area and met someone else likewise doing it, and you do the “both dodge the same way a few times” thing) or in a deadly form of treppenwitz. (An hour later, you know what would’ve been the right reaction.)

            Also handy for identifying who is a flaming moron who breaks rules for no blanking reason or for personal profit, and thus should be considered more on par with an animal hazard. (Going down a residential street cluttered with cars that has a BASKETBALL HOOP out, at 45mph?!? Seriously?!?!?)

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              What she said.

              I’ve probably learned to drive more recently than a lot of y’all. There is a lot of stuff that goes into driving, it takes time to internalize it, and some of us have a harder time with it.

              I do not always manage to follow the rules of the road, despite my efforts. However, I simply do not have the mental bandwidth to be thinking about some rule or another, and whether I can safely operate the machine while ignoring it.

              Also: “I don’t care if there is a safety interlock. If the chuck key is not in your hand, it should not be in the lathe. The habits you make now will stay with you. You, and those who look to you, will not always be using a lathe with an interlock.”

            • I’m afraid I disagree. I’m very doubtful that the instance I cited is “habit memory”. What I believe it to be is rote zombie behavior. The law says stop so stop we shall, regardless of the senselessness of it. Believe me, it’s not the first time I’ve broached this argument with someone. It’s amazing how dearly some people want to bitterly cling to written rules that govern their behavior.

              Bobtheregisteredfool, I believe, helped prove my point. Relatively new to driving and is in the process of internalizing how to drive, phrased as rules of the road. I highly doubt that many internalize the rules of the road, what they do is internalize the items they were physically taught as they were taught the physical act of driving and then internalized the successful strategies they experienced as they drove. Bobtheregisteredfool is right, when first learning there isn’t near enough bandwidth to remember some rules written down somewhere.

              So where does that leave us? That people should be taught successful strategies to drive, which will overlap with many/most “rules of the road”. And be taught this in the seat of the car, behind the wheel. And hidden behind that is that they are learning to exercise judgement on the road and the ability to think and react appropriately and quickly rather than simply respond to signage that may or may not actually be directing sensible behavior.

              It’s all like this when you are learning to fly. Overload every minute before, during, and after the flight. But over time you learn how to manage your environment and your actions. Then the instructor says, you just lost the engine, where will you set down? Your vertical speed indicator just went inop, why and what do you do, and so on. All of this process is the process of learning to exercise good judgement quickly and accurately.

              • I’m very doubtful that the instance I cited is “habit memory”. What I believe it to be is rote zombie behavior.

                Explain the difference, other than yours insulting the intelligence of the person you’re talking to.

                Preferably with some sort of indication that you even read the argument made, and making some arguments of your own beyond assertion.

                • [sigh] I’m sorry that you have taken offense to my remark. As I mention elsewhere I would not have you be insulted. That said I also won’t withdraw a comment that is blindingly obvious to me, especially in light of my other comments on the topic. I did not call you a zombie. As I mentioned elsewhere, I have had this conversation with good friends and others. Often times the result is…”but it’s a stop sign, you have to stop”. Or, “It wouldn’t be safe to not stop”. Really, you can see the heads of every prairie dog between here and town, where is the danger. That is zombie behavior. Follow the instructions of the sign just because there is a sign. It’s really that simple.

                  And I did read, most carefully, all of your remarks across this conversation. I simply don’t agree with some of your suppositions. I see that I was mistaken to have written on the subject of freedom and this context and won’t comment any more.

                  • You’re sorry she was so stupid as to be offended by her insults?

                  • I’m not offended, I’m just not going to argue to defend assumptions I don’t share, and I can’t argue against the assumptions you made because I don’t know exactly where they diverged, and I think it’s important to point out when the naming scheme is going to pick a fight all on its own.
                    (Example, the “Climate denier” thing being chosen to line up with “Holocaust denier,” although that was an open tactical choice.)

                    I simply don’t agree with some of your suppositions.

                    So answer them, rather than just saying the exact same thing with more words.
                    It’s mindlessly obeying the words on the sign because… you say so.
                    *dryly* Hm. Can’t imagine why your friends get upset about someone informing them that their actions are mindless obedience, even if they explain exactly why it’s a good idea. (And that totally ignores the way that people will sometimes not see things they don’t expect, familiar to anybody who’s driven a tractor on a road and had city drivers try to come up the tailpipe of a vehicle twice the height of theirs, with bright orange triangles and flashing lights.)

              • Calling it a nastier name doesn’t change the reality. And in reality rote habits are the mainstays of our lives, and the correct route is to preprogram them as effectively as we can, not spend all our lives pondering the right thing to do in every moment.

        • Which points to the real problem– “freedom” can impose costs on those who are not the ones making a choice.

          It’s not a universal slider bar– you’ve got to work hard to balance the various interests to try to minimize either excessive costs from others, or people seeking to be free from the consequences of their prior choices.

          • It was hard to not reply to this with complete snark as that was my knee-jerk reaction. From reading your posts here for a little while you wouldn’t deserve it and I would be loathe to be so rude to a person that I don’t know but still generally enjoy reading what they write.

            The reason this post pulled that visceral reaction from me is that it sounds so much like the clarion call that is used to convince people to give up their freedom. “Freedom is hard, here let me make it easier for you”. “Just a few common sense rules just to keep everyone safe”. And on and on.

            In reality there is nothing hard about weighing the value and the price of freedom. I am a completely areligious person. I respect religions for what they represent and do for people and have great fascination for the ins and outs of most major and not major religions. But to phrase it in a Christian way, the only real rule we need is the golden rule.

            Freedom for yourself and not infringing on others freedom. I don’t mean anarchy, at least as many envision anarchy. But really just what our Constitution codifies. Free from constraints that others want to impose on your for their benefit. Freedom to combine with and ally with anyone you want to, and ignore anyone you want. Freedom to support those things that you feel to be right and proper and let other support those things they feel are right and proper. Why is that so hard? Why is it hard to let someone on the highway on ramp? Why is it hard to keep your shopping cart to the side so others can pass, or move it when someone wants something it’s blocking. Some might say these examples are ludicrous, but common courtesy, exercised constantly, is what allows a society to exist. Otherwise we all get on each others nerves so much there would be constant open warfare.

            Sorry for droning on, but really it’s not hard to position that slider bar. We all do it every day, to one degree or another. We chose to do right by ourselves while not doing wrong by others…not that hard.

            • Why is that so hard? Why is it hard to let someone on the highway on ramp? Why is it hard to keep your shopping cart to the side so others can pass, or move it when someone wants something it’s blocking.

              As you state you’re irreligious, any answer I’d offer would not satisfy you, other than “human nature.”

              They’re basic courtesy, sure– but they are that because they do have a cost to the person granting them, even if it’s trivial.
              The fact that we can’t depend on them– and you won’t find a place this side of the pearly gates that we can– indicates that we do need rules, even if they get exploited as much as “courtesy” does.
              When rules are exploited– even by there being too many– there’s a recourse because it’s fairly objective.
              “Just don’t be rude” is too open to manipulation, as can be seen in various twitter-mobs. Those folks feel like they’ve been wronged, and thus justified in their lack of manners.
              And you can’t have “just don’t be rude” and include all responding to being rude as rudeness, because that just means that only those who follow not being rude are bound by it.

              It’s not a perfect system, it’s just the least bad so far.

        • Is your family reunion a Carrington Event?

      • We’d mostly think there would be some yahoo that would do the wrong thing and everyone would pay. Well, let the yahoo make a bad choice and wreck things.

        Only if you give me a literal tank, and the fuel for it.

        Just what I need, to be t-boned and my kids maimed or killed, in the vague hope that it will improve the species by hurting the idiot who did it more than it hurt others.

        People are frequently good at figuring out what is best for them. It’s the not being a selfish psychopath who doesn’t care if they just caused a death in someone else that they’re weak in.

        • But here you sort of make my point. Your fear of what someone else might do to you and yours drives you to think somehow signs and portents will protect you. I ride a motorcycle more than I drive a cage. Whether on two wheels or in a cage my head is on a swivel and I expect anyone within a half a block of me is intent on running me down, backing up and doing it again. I learned defensive riding/driving when I was 14 and taught it to my kids when I taught them to drive. Drove them nuts, as they were trying to master the complexity of learning to drive, that I would point out a car at an intersection three quarters of a block away and ask them what their escape route is. They barely knew how to change lanes. Now they know to keep their heads on a swivel at all times and have an out or be prepared. They have had no traffic accidents in about 25 years each of driving. The only accident I ever had was in high school when someone turned left in front of me and I couldn’t see them because a school bus was in the left lane blocking my view.

          You can minimize your danger more by your actions than by trusting someone else to follow traffic laws they obviously don’t remember if they ever learned. Prime example around here, two lanes merging onto the interstate that merge into each other before getting to the highway entrance. The driver in the merging lane will continue to drive side by side with another vehicle right to the bitter end, even though they do not have the right of way. I wasn’t advocating abolishing traffic laws. I’d be more in favor of replacing most stop signs with yield signs. Or, perhaps, yield signs on the less busy artery.

          It’s just one small example of freedom to choose and encouragement to exercise judgement skills. If we allow every behavior to be heavily regulated so that no judgement is required how can we complain when nobody is able to exercise “good” judgement?

          • Your fear of what someone else might do to you and yours drives you to think somehow signs and portents will protect you.

            If you can’t figure out the difference between enforcing laws against behavior and prophecy— I think you meant to imply something more along the lines of a voodoo thing, though –then you’re not thinking seriously about it.

            That you follow it up with a false choice between following laws and defensive driving just supports that. You implicitly assume that defensive driving would replace the existing laws, and don’t even recognize how much defensive driving depends on shared assumptions based in those laws.

          • Signs and portents? Now you are just being silly. Signs do protect us. And when they don’t, they speed things up by making it clear who’s doing what.

    • Overheard once:
      She: You should let him use his own judgment.
      He: But he doesn’t have good judgment.
      Me: (thought) Maybe not. But given what I do know and you don’t, I’m not convinced that yours would be all that superior.

      • You have to exercise your judgment to get good at it.

        • This is so very true.

          • The terrifying thing is figuring out how to basically set the kids up for only those failures that won’t result in long-term harm.
            “No, Baron! Hot! No eat, too hot!” *The Baron grabs the cooking potato chunk* *The Baron cries because he just burnt his finger* “HOT! Ow! Too hot! No eat, Baron, no eat.” vs spotting his hand headed for the inner surface of the oven I just pulled a pizza out of, and subsequent physical prevention of action and/or hand swatting, depending on what else I’ve got in my hands at the moment.)

            That I am aware that no matter how good my judgement is, I can’t see all that will happen, just makes it harder.

            Story evidence: my three year old warrior has an inch and a half long scar on her forehead because she and her sister were fighting over a forbidden spin on my computer chair, and sister is bigger, so she got pushed off and hit the bottom of the drawer -slot on my computer desk. That’s also when I found out that the children’s emergency room is less effective than “basic country kid survival” for things that aren’t immediately deadly. Toddler with a head injury and nobody even looked at her eyes or did basic tests for brain injury, and they managed to screw up the superglue stitches so the scar is huge. Next time, I butterfly bandage it and monitor for signs of brain injury, since I had to do that anyways.

            • yep, yep. Marshall with palm size “egg” on the back of his head. Not looking at eyes, no scan. That was when sensory trouble set in, though some might have been inherent.

            • Yeah, my Wiggle is pulling up and learning the lateral cruise. We anticipate walking to be forth coming at which point… things may get interesting. He does NOT like to be penned up even if he can see us. Hopefully we can get things cleaned and unpacked enough we don’t have to when we’re in the kitchen.

            • And that fear never leaves you. You do your best to teach your kids to give them the best tools you can to help them keep themselves safe. But even when they are in their 40’s and beyond you think, from time to time, “I hope they remembered to take an umbrella”.

              That’s really one of the most frightening things about society around us today. When I was a kid you had to do something seriously awful to really end up with a live altering black mark in your “permanent record”. With today’s hyper regulation and uniformity something that, in the past, would be kids will be kids can be a life altering offense against the state.

              This, more than anything else is what has spawned generations of people that are unable to exercise good judgement…they’ve never been allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

        • This is one reason so many fear the raising of a generation of helicoptered children. The time to learn about mass & momentum is when you’re on your $59.85 (current advertised price at Walmart for Radio Flyer Classic Red Dual-Deck) tryke, not when you’re directing a $15K automobile. The time to learn to overcome failure is when you can reasonably attribute it to youthful inexperience.

        • Yep. A long time ago, I heard that expressed as, “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.”

          • If you’re smart, you learn from others mistakes; if not, someone smart learns from yours.

            • Thus we observe the etymological basis for the idiom: Ooh, that smarts!

            • I don’t remember the exact quote, but someone noted that you have to learn from the mistakes of others, because you don’t have time to make all of them yourself.

      • Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.

        Alas, for many people it’s true.

        “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that.” — Benjamin Franklin

    • Yes, but the ones that want to do other peoples’ thinking for them are, on average, worse.

  3. Substitute ‘Mind-numbing conformity’ for security and you don’t miss it at all.

  4. So you put your thumb on the scales to make your pick and point out why so many of the people will continue to vote for scumbags that promise them security. Fear. Fear of failure drives some people to work hard and excel and causes others to hide in the dark. Dear Ben Franklin was right…sadly the way things have worked out the fearful ones (I really, really wanted to say cowards, but I’m not entirely sure that’s fair) can force the rest of us into that dark room with them.

  5. c4c

  6. Those securities people crave are mostly illusory, anyway. The more I learn about life and the world, the more convinced I become that one incident is the line between make it and break it.

    • Very true. That illusory security is there until the entity granting it to you decides not to any more.

  7. First thought: They must make really good diapers over there or else you don’t polish the furniture over there very often.
    Second thought: this was very well thought out and well written. I guess it helps to be supervising trades-people while formulating the daily thoughts.

    • The ones that were used for me, and my siblings, are still in use 30+ years later as cleaning cloths. (I don’t know if they were new when we got them or not.)

      Just have to avoid corrosive cleaners and not use them for scrubbing.

    • 30 years later and we area still using diapers used on oldest spawn to dust furniture. We have a 30 gallon Rubbermaid tote full of them….

      My wife has a very hard time throwing anything away…..

  8. Jeff Duntemann

    One risk (that becomes particularly evident when you’re packing to move, as we are these days) is that we often keep too many of those “comfort items.” They were there in our childhood, or they came to us when a beloved aunt or uncle died, or in some other way that grounds us in continuity with our past.

    I don’t recall who said it first, but I heard this recently: Not everything in your past belongs in your future. I have a bizarre lamp that my godmother loved, and gave me many years ago. It’s almost indescribable, having a porcelain base crowned by four porcelain angels with little painted-on breasts and nipples, and hand-painted scenes from some weird mythological paradise. It’s followed us across six states, but we’ve decided it’s the end of the line, and time to find someone else to love it, hard though that might be. I had two polyester shirts that Carol bought me in 1984, and I wore them for literally thirty years, until they were almost transparent. Last year they went in the trash. After awhile their value lay in their having been in my closet a long time. Do this enough, and you run out of closet.

    At best, keepsakes remind us that the past was real, and that we were there, whether we remember it or not. (Like the 70s?) At worst they crowd out newer and more effective artifacts. The great lesson of middle age is that such things can be let go. If you’re not grounded already by the time you’re sixty, it’s just not gonna happen.

    • Yeah, we’re doing that too.

    • One of the most jolting things that happened in my adult lifetime was when my parents’ retirement house burned to the ground in 2003, in one of those savage California wildfires. My parents got out, with their pets, and a handful of important things – but everything else – gone. Gone Mom’s wedding dress, the family christening dress, the letters that my uncle wrote to his family during WWII, the individual Christmas stockings that my Gran Jessie had knitted for us all, every shred of furniture and relics inherited from both sides of the family, or that Mom and Dad had acquired themselves, a huge box of family photographs that my daughter had been sorting out, all the Danish Christmas plates that I sent Mom every year from the AAFES catalogue all the time I was in the military … all of that, bar a few things that they grabbed.
      All gone, clean sweep of the lot.
      Of course, the up-side is, as my brother observed shortly after the fire — this will reduce considerably the number of family things that we will be squabbling over, when Mom is gone.

      • Oddly, as we were driving away from the house when the Waldo Canyon fire evacuation of our neighborhood went I had mixed feelings of loss and relief. Relief overpowered loss very quickly. It was like a huge load off. I had pulled the drives out of my computer so all our personal papers were safe, we had the pets, and a plastic bin or two of the most precious stuff. Pfffft, let it burn, we’ll talk to the insurance company if it does.

      • Jeff Duntemann

        Agreed. Fires are as bad as it gets, particularly for homebodies like us. And this is one reason we’re moving to Phoenix: The slopes of Cheyenne Mountain have had a very wet five or six years, and the vegetation is growing like, well, weeds. We had some terrible wildfires here in 2012 and 2013, and our area has become a forest. If the trees here ever go up, the house would be leveled, and everything in it destroyed.

      • Back in my youth, when I worked in a comics shop, I observed that every comic book has three costs:

        Cost of purchase : trivial

        Cost of time spent reading it : minor but not insignificant

        Cost of carrying it around with you until it comes time to sell it : potentially enormous.

      • Of course, the up-side is, as my brother observed shortly after the fire — this will reduce considerably the number of family things that we will be squabbling over, when Mom is gone.

        Or, similarly bad, having to prep for an estate sale, because you and your sib already have overfull houses and can’t take in an iota more.

    • Do this enough, and you run out of closet.

      At best, keepsakes remind us that the past was real, and that we were there, whether we remember it or not. (Like the 70s?) At worst they crowd out newer and more effective artifacts.

      Totally agree! I do a purge at least once a year, getting unused and unwanted items out of the house. We’d be overrun otherwise. Especially with children growing fast. Once they’ve outgrown it (whatever it is), it needs to go!

      • A few years ago I purged all my old computer equipment. A 386-20 motherboard that cost $600, a 386-20 processor that cost $750, a thousand dollars’ worth of RAM (sixteen MEGAbytes!) a one gigabyte SCSI hard drive ($1900), a couple of SCSI controllers ($400 and $500), a 9600 baud modem that cost $300…

        All that was 1980s and early 1990s dollars, worth noticeably more than wimpy 20-teens dollars. And I shopped hard and got good prices for what I bought. But none of it was worth that any more; I was lucky I didn’t have to pay for “hazardous disposal” since most of it had old-school soldered connections.

        It all worked, too… I could have assembled a cutting-edge 1990-ish workstation out of it.

        That RAM I mentioned… I had to go to the UPS distribution center to pick it up because I wanted it NOW instead of waiting until Monday. I took the SIPPs out of the box and slid them into my shirt pocket for the ride home, and mused that someone moving a suitcase full of RAM from Korea to the US could turn a sizeable profit…

    • I have boxes of old t-shirts from various places around the world and around the countrt. My mother is making me a quilt out of them. You can only wear so many t-shirts, especially if they’re “souvenir” type shirts, but a quilt can be used or hung for a lot longer.

      • I thought I had a lot of t-shirts (I don’t think I still have any that date from the 1970s, but I do have a few from the early 1980s) until I worked with someone whose husband had been a roadie and concert venue sound person for about 30 years.

        • Yeah, both my wife and I have obviously attended way too many science fiction conventions….

        • I definitely don’t have any from the 70s. Mostly because I was born in 80. I do use t shirts and postcards as my go-to souvenirs at places, though. Post cards go in the photo album, t shirts for the quilt. This way I don’t have all manner of tchotchkes and figurines and keychains and everything else cluttering up my house and getting hauled all over creation. Just the important things: books.

          • I was going to agree…then I remembered that I have at least three t-shirts, and two pairs of pants, that my parents wore in college. (Only one is tattered, but when I get around to it I’m going to iron on some backing for the picture– it’s an old “Fighting Irish” shirt.)
            My sister has mom’s high school track hoodie, though, as well as the ones that she got before she even MET our father!

            And two or three of the baby clothes the Empress (formerly known as The Lady, but changed yesterday because she is frequently NotEmpressed) wears were quite possibly worn by my mother, since they were family hand-me-downs when I wore them, and the style is right. It’s not like the first three months size gets a lot of wear and tear, especially if they’re yellow so there’s less work to remove stains.
            (Mom was the last on her side to have kids while in shipping range, and my sister was the first of the next generation to have kids at all, so it sort of got shifted into our line….)

            • New families at Sib’s church don’t have to buy newborn baby stuff besides diapers, because there is a HUGE bank of gently-used clothes, blankets, changing pads, little coats, and a few christening or presentation gowns. They just get passed around and around and around . . .

          • “I definitely don’t have any from the 70s. Mostly because I was born in 80.”
            That stops it? My kids were born in the nineties, and for years they wore my con t-shirts (not sf con, mind) and dad’s computer shirts from the eighties.

            • Yep. My daughter took and wore some of my old USNA uniform shirts (I couldn’t fit in them anymore), although I don’t believe she still has any of them. I don’t know if she still has my old P-coat, but she took that, too.

  9. Hubby’s mother still has all of his old cloth diapers washed and stored in the attic. She grew up in rural AR in the Depression.

    OT: I’m reading Michelle Malkin’s latest book, Who Built That?, and I see that she lives in CO Springs. Sarah hasve you ever met or seen her? I know that CO Springs is a large town and that you probably move in very different circles, but… .

  10. There is no security.

    I started to say: There is no Security absent Liberty because argument …

    But I looked at the words and realized Death and Taxes. Security does not exist because this world is ephemeral, it is ruled by Mara (or, as some call him, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Old Scratch, Belial, Prince of Lies.) We can surround ourselves with comforting illusion or we can accept that all men are mortal, that all age and die, that people will lie to us, offering to magic beans in exchange for a milk cow, that there are no “safe” places, that sticks and stones can break our bones but hurt feelings recover if we allow them to, that many of the burdens we bear we do so voluntarily and needlessly.


    There is security in acknowledging the lack off Security. Rust never sleeps, and we must not deceive ourselves simply because it is more comfortable to leave the work of fighting the rust to others.

    Only by recognizing the impossibility of Security do we enable ourselves to enjoy sanctuary.

    • Reality Observer

      It is when you realize this, that you become an adopted child of Martha.

      Mary is a wonderful mother – but eventually you have to leave home.

      • “And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd—they know the Angels are on their side.
        They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
        They sit at the feet—they hear the Word—they see how truly the Promise runs.
        They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and—the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!”

        Kipling, he definitely says it best.

  11. Every step to the future requires leaving past security behind.

  12. There were things like my old diapers we used to do the dusting.

    Momma always said there was nothing better for dusting than old well washed diapers. (I don’t think she would have approved of the modern cloth ones.)

    • Ya cain’t wash the throwaways. Still, a couple of them, unused but retaped as if they were, in a clear plastic bag in the back seat, has been touted as a partial guard against theft of the car.

  13. The red pajamas were comfy and thinking the world has pillars is very cozy.

    Silly woman. Everyone knows that the world doesn’t have pillars, it rests upon the backs of four elephants standing on a turtle. Oh, that’s there, not here. Sigh. Nevermind…

  14. I confess I find myself less troubled by the pillars of the world than by the pillocks.

  15. You have me remembering the floral blue nightgown that I wore from age 5 to 12. But my mother didn’t patch it or add to it. I was a string bean and the gown was gathered, with lots of extra width. So it just got shorter. And then my mom did make it sleeveless, because the long sleeves were far too short for my long, skinny arms. The flannel was very threadbare by the time the gown went in the rag bag.

    I loved that old nightgown. But I don’t miss it. 😀

    • I had an insulated car-coat, which I think that my parents bought for me, several sizes larger than required when I was about six – wore I for about the next ten years or so.

      • I think I am still storing a shirt or two from back in the days when my inseam exceeded my waist, but i am certain none of the pants remain.

        • I got rid of all the too-small pants as an incentive to lose some weight. Instead, I wash one pair and wear the other…

        • I’ve got my favorite dress from high school. And my wedding gown. I wonder if the fabric in either is sound?

          • If you have daughters maybe one will wear your wedding gown?

            • My grandmother’s two daughters and I, each in our turn, went shopping to see what wedding dresses were available at the time — and then turned back and had hers altered. It’s just so much nicer (and we weren’t so far different in size as to make this infeasible).

            • No, but she might have granddaughters. Which is why I’m saving mine. 2k in expensive Italian lace. I’m saving it.

              • I was the fifth bride to wear my wedding dress. It was sixty years old when I wore it. Great-Aunt whom it was made for saved all the scrap fabric, passed it on to her cousin, who passed it to Grandmother, who passed it to Mom, who passed it on to me. The scrap fabric was what allowed me to wear it, not being nearly the bean pole my mother was or corseted like my grandmother’s generation. That and a brilliant if nervous seamstress who remade the bodice. The fabric had turned from white to pale gold with the years and never could have been matched exactly. My mother was the only girl who wore it out of her generation, and I’m the only one in mine, though there’s one unmarried cousin left who might want it, as her grandmother was the first bride to get married in it. (We are, apparently, a very marrying family.)
                So yes, save your dresses. Mine is seventy-four years old this year. I hope my daughters will wear it someday.

          • Suit coats from my early college days, because a good navy or camel hair wool blazer NEVER goes out of style. A 1995 suit-dress that is now classic, high-value vintage. The last dress from high school wore out . . . no, I take that back, I have a green corduroy I got as a HS freshman that I still wear to work. It came from Eddie Bauer, back when they were still a clothing store for the country-gentry and adult set.