Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Pack a Book Box, and Other Skills My Family Taught Me

My parents are moving, and they've spent the last month packing.  Their experience has made me think about packing and about the fact that we've lived in the same house since 1998.  Maybe we should pretend we're moving and start to sort through our stuff.  We have too much stuff.

Our church youth group is holding a rummage sale to help them raise funds to travel to the big youth gathering next summer.  Maybe knowing that my stuff will help the youth group have a once-in-a-lifetime experience will help me gather momentum and the courage to let go of the stuff.

I'm also thinking of the packing of boxes, and some blog posts (here and here) that I've read about books and moving.  Will the day come when we no longer pack books into boxes?  It may already be here for many people.

I think back to all the moves that my parents made when we were kids, and all the times I packed my books into boxes.  Those boxes were always the first to be unpacked.  Once I had my books on the shelves, I felt surrounded by old friends.

I remember the first time my dad showed me how to pack a book box.  Those of you with few books may scoff at the idea that there's a skill to packing a book box, but there is.  You don't want to damage the books, and you want boxes that you can stack.

I think of all the other skills my dad taught me.  Will they be obsolete soon?

Some already are.  I know how to thread a reel-to-reel tape machine.  Of course, I no longer have access to that equipment, and I imagine that most people don't.  I have no reel-to-reel tapes.  It's O.K.

I know how to safely train myself to run longer distances.   I know how to break in a new pair of running shoes.  I return to those skills, first taught by my dad, again and again.

I think of all the backpacking skills my father taught me.  Or did the Girl Scouts teach me more?  I learned how to pack light, and how to estimate what I could carry on my back.  I learned how to wash out dishes with sand and river water.  I can make a tasty trail mix.  I know several ways to disinfect water.

I'm trying not to veer into the land of apocalypse here.  I'm trying not to think of the future as a time when backpacking skills will be more valuable than box packing skills.

I wonder if the time will soon be approaching that I'll wish I had paid more attention to the skills my grandma could have taught me:  how to weather a great Depression.  My grandmother has saved a letter that the seminary sent to my grandfather.  The letter told him that he was accepted into the seminary, but that he might consider staying on the farm, where at least there would be food.

My grandfather went to seminary, and even though there were many years where he didn't earn much cash, the family survived.  I am amazed at the stories my grandmother used to tell about how tough it was at times.  But even though it was tough, they still shared what they had.  My grandmother loved to tell the story of tramps that came to the door.  My grandfather would never give away money--too much danger that it would be spent on the wrong things, like alcohol.  But he'd fix a tramp a fried egg sandwich and sit on the stairs to keep the man company while he ate.

Now I look back with the eyes of adulthood, and I see that my grandfather was sharing scarce resources.  But once again, I'm reminded of the most important lessons that my family taught me, generation after generation:  you're never too poor to share your resources, no matter how scarce they may be.

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