The Old Coot ‘loves’ stuff

We love stuff! Cars, clothes, cell phones, music, movies. STUFF! I used to feel guilty about it. Materialism was a taboo in the hippie generation I grew up in. But, little by little the stigma wore off. How could it not? Those Hopalong Cassidy guns I got on my 7th birthday held a place in my heart long after they took up lodging in the attic. That 1953 Ford convertible I bought for $60, with more “Bondo” than sheet metal in the body, a heater that didn’t work and only started when it was in the mood, tugs at my heartstrings to this day. Old sweaters, dusty-bucks, varsity jackets, they all draw me into a materialistic frame of mind. Old friends, lost in time. The guilt of “loving stuff” is still there, but it speaks in a quieter voice.

My parents tried. “You can’t love something that can’t love you back,” was my mother’s constant admonishment. I heard it every time I said I loved something, “I love my three-speed English bike”. – “I love my Levi dungarees,” (we didn’t call them jeans back then); “I love my PF Flyers,” (the hot sneaker of the day). All statements like that were met with the “It can’t love you back’” lecture. My love of stuff was small, but strong. It’s why I still have those Hoppy guns, and have purchased several “antique” three-speed bikes over the years to repair the hole in my heart that wants to retrieve the good feeling it gave me when I owned one 65 years ago. And, that 1953 Ford convertible! Oh, to sit behind the wheel, put the top down and drive to Quaker Lake would be heaven.

Cars are a biggie, for a lot of people. Get them talking about their first car, no matter how much of a wreck it was, and you turn on a loudspeaker in their heart. The story comes out loud and clear and usually ends with, “I wish I had that car now!” In fact, most of the cars we left behind tug at our heartstrings. It’s a divorce of sorts, when we “dump” them for a newer, shinier vehicle; but they become a part of who we are – an old friend who moved away.  

I usually carry around a canvas messenger bag with a notebook full of articles I’ll probably never finish. I bought it on sale at the Old Navy Store in Ithaca for $15, thirty years ago. It’s been sewn up here and there, and new wear spots appear at frequent intervals. It’s just plain worn out! I’ve searched on-line for a decade to find an exact replacement and bought a few that seemed a close match, but then always went back to the tattered original. Then, last month, I found the exact duplicate on E-Bay, thirty years old, but in almost new condition. It’s with me now as I sit in the Owego Kitchen writing this article. My (new) old friend has moved back to town. It represents all the things I loved and lost. It’s that ‘53 Ford convertible, that three-speed English bike and those PF Flyer sneakers. All things that couldn’t love me back. 

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