The other day I went to First Landing Beach on the Chesapeake Bay near my house. Stretched out half the length of a football field was a fishing net on the edge of the water. I plunked my beach chair a few yards away and watched a fisherman painstakingly mend every hole in the net. His friend kept trying to convince him that they should cut it off and bind one edge. “It’s trashed from here down to the end. It’s not worth the time to fix it.” The mender replied, “It’s a good, strong net. I can repair it,” and diligently went on with his work.
That scene made me think back to a time when we were a young family with just two kids. We had no money and lived paycheck to paycheck in a drafty old farmhouse in rural Connecticut. We belonged to a natural food coop, taking our turn sorting and packaging everyone’s order when the bulk food came in. I made all our own bread, even grinding the wheat berries into flour in my Vitamix, and the kids wore many hand-me-downs from their cousins. My husband was a police lieutenant at the time,
and his uniform shirts were very expensive, so when he would wear out the collars, I would take them off, flip them, and sew them back on again. After all, the rest of the shirt was still good. I was like that fisherman, not willing to throw out something if it could be salvaged.
That was so many years ago, back in the ’70’s, and we’ve come a long way from that pinch-penny time. Yet I find myself reflecting on the words of that fisherman. I wonder how many of us, myself included, are too quick to pitch something just because we’re tired of it or it needs some mending. I think our country as a whole isn’t used to frugality, though many of us are having to learn to be that way. Maybe in this economy I need to return to some of my old habits and fix things if they’re broken, and find new uses for things before I go out and buy something I could do without. No, I’m not ever going to go back to flipping collars. I’m not that desperate. Yet. But that image of the fisherman gives me something to think about in these hard economic times.