Posts Tagged ‘Chanuka’

Simple Pleasures: The Spirit of Giving

A few weeks ago, my eldest grandson, 14, came to Maine to spend some time with us.  One day he accompanied me to the transfer station (a nice word for “The Dump”).  There is no garbage pickup in rural Maine; our local transfer station, about 8 miles away, is open several times a week during set hours and that’s where town residents haul their recyclable and regular trash.

When we went over to the dumpster that holds recyclable trash, my grandson noticed a few new-looking baseball cards sitting on a bunch of discarded corrugated cardboard.  He asked me if I would allow him to climb in the (clean) dumpster and take the cards.

“I think we’d better ask the guys who run the dump,” I answered.  Mostly I was concerned for my grandson’s safety – – I didn’t want them to not know my grandson was rummaging around in the dumpster, only to turn on the compactor and cause a horrific accident.

“You want the cards?  Sure!  Go ahead in and get ’em,” the transfer station employee said.  “And if you’d like me to start saving cards for you, just let me know,” he added.

The worker told us that one of the local residents makes “a little money on the side” by trading baseball cards.  He travels around New England, going to yard sales, auctions, and searching through Craigslist ads looking for baseball cards, which he buys in bulk.  He then goes through the stacks and stacks of cards, quickly filtering out 3 to 10 cards out of hundreds that have collectible value in today’s market.  The rest, he brings to the dump.

“I’ll save the cards for you if you want ’em,” the worker told us.  “Just say the word.”  Sure, I answered, we’d take whatever cards he’d scrounge up.  I didn’t think anything more about it.

A couple of weeks went by and my grandson returned home.  When I next ventured to the dump, the worker scurried towards me, carrying three cardboard boxes.

“I’ve been saving cards for you,” he said.  “And I’ll keep saving them until you tell me to stop,” he added.  I had forgotten about our conversation, but the transfer station worker had not.

I opened one of the boxes.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Each box contained at least 1,000 mint-condition baseball and football cards:  3,000 cards!

The initial three boxes of cards saved for me by the worker at the dump.  All were in clean, mint condition.

The initial three boxes of cards saved for me by the worker at the dump. All were in clean, mint condition.

Thanks to this transfer station worker’s kindness, I was now eligible for the World’s Best Savta (Grandmother) Award.  This is not an easy distinction when you’re talking about preteen and teen-aged boys for whom grandparents are most definitely not, in the ordinary sense of the word, “cool.”

I was so excited!  Thanking the worker multiple times  (and yes, I always bake him goodies every year during Christmas season, and make sure to ask him how his fishing and hunting are coming along in the Summer and Fall), I placed the boxes in the back of my car, imagining my grandsons’ faces when I presented them with the cards upon my return to my hometown.  This was definitely a case of one person’s trash being someone else’s treasure.  I emailed my kids, alerting them to my plans.

“Just got a boatload of discarded mint condition baseball cards for the boys.  Should keep them busy for hours!”

“Oh, no!”  was my children’s reply.  “More stuff!” they railed.  “Just one more thing to have to clean up after!” they groaned.  “We already have enough messes!”

“Spoken like a true parent,” I replied.  “When did you guys get so old and tired?  You don’t sound like my kids; you sound like I used to sound when you were little!  Just remember how much you used to love collecting these cards when you were kids,” I added with a dose of Jewish Mother guilt-tripping.

So with Chanuka coming, my husband and I drove down to our home town, and presented the cards to two sets of grandsons, boys ages 6 thru 14.  “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”  “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” “WOW!” “Savta, YOU ROCK!” “AWESOME!” “BEST! PRESENT! EVER!” were some of the reactions.  For the next six hours the boys got busy sorting the 3,000 cards.

Some of the grandsons sorting 3,000 baseball and football cards.  Their mother was convinced she'd never get her table back.

Some of the grandsons sorting 3,000 baseball and football cards. Their mother was convinced she’d never get her table back.

I have no idea if they found any treasures; for all I know these cards are totally worthless.  But for six hours (and four hours the following day), there was only joy:  no fighting, no sibling rivalry; the boy cousins had yet another bonding experience; and, completely free of charge and thanks to the simple kindness of my local dump worker in Maine . . .  I was the best Savta in the whole world.

Happy New Year to all!

My New Project (Knock on Wood)

We’ve been away from Maine for 3 weeks now.  But just because we’re in our hometown on the East Coast for a family simcha, Chanuka, and Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean that we don’t have Maine-like adventures!

Today we went on a nature walk along a river located about 2.5 miles from my home.  The packed-dirt path is frequented by lots of people walking their dogs; joggers; and families out for a stroll.  It’s a very beautiful area with heavy tree cover (unless you are hiking in late Fall, of course, and the leaves have dropped), and even though it’s off a main road, after about a mile you lose the sound of traffic completely and instead  hear only birdsong.

So there we were, walking with our dog, when we noticed several downed trees due to a nasty storm a few months earlier.  In order for the path to remain unobstructed, the branches and trunks had to be chain-sawed and pulled off the side of the path.  But in some cases the trees were so massive, that a chainsaw would not do it.  Clearly heavy equipment had been brought in, and alongside the road the trunks, more than 36″ across, had been sliced neatly into 3″ thick pieces and stacked.

I suppose most people passing by would have thought, “wood,” but I thought, “Table!”

I convinced my husband that we really needed a coffee table and this would be so easy to make.  I could rent a belt sander from Home Depot and smooth out the surface; I could use a pressure washer to clean the mud from the craggy bark; I could polyurethane the table top,  and we could take one of our thicker unsplit logs from our woodshed in Maine and mount it to the newly envisioned table top as a base.

Lately I have been a woman on a mission, cleaning out my house.  Like so many Americans, I just have way too much “stuff.”  The way I’ve been successful in giving away things or throwing stuff out is to ask myself the question, “If I moved to Israel tomorrow, would I take this with me?”  and if the answer is “yes” then I keep it.  So my husband, who has been amazed at my recent proclivity for tossing stuff, was surprised by my sudden need for a coffee table.  “What do you need it for?” he asked.  “Why would we drag a piece of wood to Israel?”

“Are you kidding?” I said.  “Who in Israel has even seen a solid piece of wood 3′ across?  I mean, they don’t even have trees this big in Israel!  It’s going to be such a conversation piece!”

The only problem was that by now we were about 1.5 miles from the trail head and the massive piece of trunk weighed about 150 lbs.

“No problem!” I said, “we’ll just roll it!”

The only things that were rolling at that precise moment were my husband’s eyes, along with a look of utter disdain.

Despite the look on his face, my husband (says he) loves me!

Despite the look on his face, my husband (says he) loves me!

“You have got  to be kidding,” he said. But one look at me and he knew that I was most definitely not kidding.  I was going to make this happen!

There was a small detail.  It was 33 degrees outside, the path and wood were uneven and muddy, and I lacked gloves.

“Not to worry,” I told my husband, “I will roll the entire 150-lb  piece of wood by myself back to the car.  But I will need to borrow your gloves.”  Prior to this I had been keeping my hands warm and toasty in the pockets of my down vest, but the weather really was too freezing cold for log-rolling without gloves.

“How can I let you do that?” my husband said, exasperated and knowing he was about to get a lot more exercise than he had planned on.  Honestly and truly, I was not being manipulative.  I had been doing some strength training at the gym to combat my osteoporosis, and I was kind of looking forward to the challenge.  I figured as long as I kept the wood very close to my body and walked slowly, I could manage rolling  this unwieldy, wicked-heavy,  monster piece of wood.

My husband wouldn’t hear of it.  “You go waaay too slowly, and I don’t have the patience.”  It was true — but what about the old adage of the tortoise and the hare?  True, he did manage to roll it with some momentum and covered a lot more ground in the same amount of time as I could, but sometimes that big chunk of wood got out of control, careened wildly, and toppled to the ground.  Let me tell you, picking up and righting  a 150-lb piece of hardwood was no picnic, and it fell more than once.  Also, because my husband was going faster, he had to stop and rest every 30 or so feet — so I’m not sure pokey old me was all that much slower at the end of the day.  As we made our way through uneven ground, mud, and uphills, my husband became more and more distressed.

“Please,” I’d beg, “let me take over!”   But just then some people would meander by, and his macho side would take over.

“I am too embarrassed with all these people around,” he admitted, “to have you do the work instead of me.”  I couldn’t believe it!  My husband was never one for false pride.  Such gallantry!  (Or was it chauvinism?) (And besides, how did it make me look, to be strolling carefree and unburdened alongside a grey-haired old guy  who was struggling mightily?)

By now he wasn’t looking too good.  The rest stops were more frequent, and his face had a rather alarming ash grey tone.  One strapping young athletic  hunk passed us with his Swiss Mountain Dog, and offered to help.  (“Yes!” I thought.)  But my husband waved him off.

Meanwhile, during the rest stops, people passing by were only too happy to contribute their remarks.

“Way cool!”



“What are you going to do with that?”


“What a great table!” (That person obviously “got” it!)

With every positive adjective I beamed with delight, and my husband grew increasingly despondent.  Finally an older woman passed us, looked us and the wood up and down, and said to my husband,

“Doing penance?”

My husband liked that one.

So with his cross to bear, so to speak, we made it to the car in about 45 minutes of rolling, grunting, and resting.  Luckily at that moment someone else was parking their car at the trail head and offered to help lift the slab into our car.

My husband was still grumbling when one of the passersby commented, “Wow, every time you look at your table, you’ll have a story!”

“I know, right?” I replied.  My husband gave her a dirty look, but I only grinned my happiest grin.

P.S.  When we got home I measured the beast:  34.5″ x 37″ x 6.5″ of solid hardwood.  Yippee!