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Good old standbys (01/10/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Cheers for the humble lead pencil, pantyhose, toothpick, and scissors! The multipurpose doohickey and that handy thingamajig!

Many of the old staples our parents and grandparents have depended on down through the ages have made it to the 21st century - and still going strong.

It crossed my mind, as I whipped up another one of my weekly sugar-free Jell-O flavors with fruit and Cool Whip. These simple concoctions save me from gorging on much naughtier sweets, the chocolate I crave, and ice cream treats. Good old J-E-L-L-O! Mom’s metal Jell-O mold always showed up at Christmastime to create the lime wreath.

What would we do without potholders? Ouch! The rag type has been a sewing project for young girls, passed on by their grannies, followed by knitting dishcloths and embroidering designs on pillowcases. Recently, ruffling through a cedar chest I hadn’t opened in years, I discovered a white linen tablecloth, showy with embroidered flowers around the border, my final sewing , when I was a new wife and mommy. From then on, I was sewing patches on the worn knees of jeans and darning socks.

As for current state-of-the-art replicas of old-time kitchen utensils, the only difference between them and the plain, metal, bent-out-of-shape relics, once used in kitchens everywhere, is the high price. A potato peeler is a potato peeler, never mind that it comes with a handsome black handle that curves to fit into any hand with ease.

How would Baby Boomer grandmas get into the holiday spirit without their precious Elvis Christmas album flooding through the house, as it has for the past twenty years? The teens turn up their noses and drown out her rockin’ nostalgic reverie with the holiday song of their choice, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer, walking home from our house Christmas Eve...” Will that one ever make it as an all-time classic? Heaven help us!

Is it possible that the old staple toilet paper could ever be improved? Cloud soft and 2-ply, toilet tissue is possibly the most taken for granted luxury of our time. Crocodile Dundee, as you may remember from the movie, was the rugged jungle bunny who visited the big city. Taken to a luxurious hotel, he was enthralled by the toilet that sprays water on your posterior before you rise. In his goose-bumpy Australian accent, Dundee pronounced the name of the lavish lavatory as “beday.” I’ll stick to Charmin.

What about writers’ helpmates? Along with a fertile memory, vivid imagination, and the knack for clever expression, a dictionary and a thesaurus are priceless companions as a writer seeks out the precise word to use. I can’t help but believe that this current trend to create a mindless computer language, as well as “text messaging,” with no creativity or incentive to ponder and to reason, will be short-lived.

Viable people will, once again, crave and seek out intelligent discourse and meaningful communication with each other. Who takes time to meditate anymore? Is everyone too busy absently pushing buttons, talking gibberish, extracting answers from a tangled mess of wires, a dusty keyboard, and a glaring screen.

With every technological advancement, someone proceeds to exploit its capabilities out of greed. For every productive and upright attainment realized, there arise many, many more hackers imposing their dishonest, criminal, and dangerous actions upon unsuspecting victims, plugged in and vulnerable.

How would we know when it’s time for our yoga session without clocks? (Search for a sundial in the attic?) Where would we be without footwear? (Probably on a sandy, sun-drenched beach somewhere.) Our ingenious society has led to the discovery of donut holes, hair spray, pimiento stuffed olives, Larry the Cable Guy, sticky notes, body piercing, whiteout, Barbie, color crayons, and fast-food, along with Rolaids. (Something for everybody!)

Keep it simple! Use what you’ve got! Git ‘er done!

Janet Burns resides in her old “standby” hometown of Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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