Times and necessities change, so what’s cost-saving for one generation is forgotten in the next. Almost gone now are the numerous stories from elders who survived the Great Depression and followed the “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do” rule. The survival innovation found in such scarcity was a tribute to both inventiveness and common sense.
Of course, generational practices are relative. In too many parts of the world, including our own nation, the old rule is still in force. And, as we have seen in the falling debris of the Greed Era, many should not have forgotten it in the first place, though reasonable consumerism, and so economic growth, does depend on replacing things.
Yet some necessities ought not disappear, for charm is lost, as is simplicity. One example: the sprinkle top fitted to a seltzer or soda bottle for use in ironing. A friend’s mother had such a thing, a bright chrome, mushroom-shaped stopper with many holes. It came in handy for more than spreading a few drops to help erase wrinkles.
She had a rhythm in her ironing, this mom, pulling a shirt onto the angled end of the board so that she could get the back of the garment perfectly flat for a quick sprinkle from the repurposed bottle. She just as quickly applied the hot iron so that a sizzle was heard just as steam chased her hand, as it refashioned the shirt for another run of the press. All this while talking to her guest, occasionally looking at him, which she could do since she had her mojo down pat. The ironer could even reach for another swig from the sprinkle bottle without eying it, so well tuned was her ironing board radar.
I found the stopper interesting. I had never seen one since my own mother used a steam iron. I recall thinking how clever was this device and how simple. Simple often means beauty in my world, so that went down well.
But what worked best for me was that I could stare at the stopper and so distract myself enough not to get tongue-tied as I was trying to make conversation. Young fellows talking to other people’s moms usually don’t have much to say beyond the rescue phrase, “It’s warm today, isn’t it?”
Decades later, I don’t think I have spotted a sprinkle stopper since, but I have not forgotten how long ago one eased the wrinkles from my conversation.