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Letter to the Editor - Anna Phelps

Article Date: 
7 February, 2014 (All day)

Dear Editor,
A disturbing trend is occurring among the children of the baby boomers, myself included. We seem to have no interest in trying to save old or broken things. Rather than paying someone to come fix a broken dishwasher, for example, we would rather just go buy a new one.
Recently my laptop broke (I wish I could blame it one my kids, but it was all me). I found out it would cost about $300 to fix it. A new one would only cost a couple hundred more - then I could have a completely new updated laptop! I gave in and bought a new laptop. When something is broken - just throw it away and get a new one, right?
My mother would be horrified at my reasoning. She always used to quote the pioneer saying “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I grew up living with her frugality - she had to be that way. We were a poor family with eight children. I wore my sister’s hand me downs, and rarely ever had new clothes. My children don’t even know what “hand me downs” are. Why haven’t I passed on that legacy of frugality to my children? Shame on me.
I think we should keep and fix old things. Keep using them, and in so doing, remember our past. Another example, this time from the high school. If you walk into their library one of the first things you will see is a big card catalog cabinet. It still has all the cards in it from decades ago. What an amazing piece of history that they chose to keep on display. As you open the little drawers you can sense its past. As a side note, my freshman son and his friends did not know they could find their books using the computer there. They thought they had to use the card catalog. So rather than try to use something so foreboding, they just always went to the city library. Silly boys. 
Wouldn’t a lot of our landfill problems be solved if we were committed to reusing and fixing things? Wouldn’t a lot of our financial problems be solved? Wouldn’t a lot of our relationship problems be solved? 
I remember my mom used the same old vacuum all through my growing up years. Whenever it was broken, she took it apart, cleaned and tuned it up, and made it work again. 
My father-in-law sees the diamond in the rough with old cars. He likes to buy them (often from a wrecking yard) and restore them to their previous beauty. He is teaching my son his skills as they work side by side. 
Many more marriages in my generation are “broken” and end in divorce, than that of our parents’ generation. Grant you, that is an over simplification; many marriages have to end because of abuse. But there is also the new mentality that if your marriage is too hard to fix, “throw it away.” 
My sister is an amazingly strong woman. Her husband did cheat on her, but that didn’t mean an automatic “This is broken, I’m done with it.” Everyone’s situation is different so I’m not telling anyone what they should do. I am saying I agree with the reasoning. I like that something—almost anything, really—can be fixed and used again. 
Our lives and our children’s lives could be greatly improved if we adapted the old pioneer saying. Try to save things. Try to fix things. Keep our history close to us. 
Feeling connected to the card catalog because of its history. Giving an old vacuum a little TLC, while your children watch in fascination. Feeling close to my sister because she let me wear her special “hand me down” dress. Fixing up an old beater with a grandson. Not throwing out a “broken” marriage—all priceless. 
Wow, do I have a lot to change, and a lot to teach my children.
~ Anna Phelps