Baking · positive directions

Make the world better

I have written before that my life was always “half a block away.”  We lived half a block from a very affluent neighborhood, and the geographical distance was a metaphor for so many aspects of my life.

One of those areas was obviously money.  While my “other side of the street” friends had parents who drove them to school, I walked or paid my own bus fare.  They bought lots of new back to school clothes every fall.  Many of them were given cars when they turned 16, and so on.

As children on the wrong side of the street, we were given an allowance, just so we had money.  It was $1/week.  It wasn’t a lot, but my parents wanted us to understand the connection between work and income.  We had money making opportunities, which were chores with a choice.


The one I remember most was ironing.  I didn’t particularly like it, but parts of ironing were easy.  Napkins, handkerchiefs and tableclothes were no talent, quick money.  They were also priced accordingly.  The big money to be had was in shirts.  Shirts with collars and placards and buttons and sleeves and cuffs.  If mother didn’t like the finished product, she made you do it again, explaining each time why your effort was not worthy of payment.  I hated shirts, but they were 25¢ each, and 4 of them would double your weekly income.  It took more handkerchiefs than my father owned to hit the $1.00 mark, so we eventually broke down and did shirts.

What seemed onerous at the time, is now a blessing.  Each morning, before caffeine, I go downstairs, pull a shirt from the shirt rack, and freshly press it for my husband.  I can do it well, even after a bad night’s sleep, because it is second nature to me.  Somehow (laziness?) I missed teaching my own children.  Son #2 can iron a shirt like no one’s business, but that is due to the loving oversight given gently by a drill sargeant in Georgia.  Or because the fear of God was instilled by the DS.  You decide.

I was reflecting on skills lost, as I was making pie crusts this morning.  The epitaph on my tombstone will probably read, “She couldn’t make a decent piecrust, but it was not for lack of trying.”  I didn’t like pies as a child, so I never sat with my mother to watch her skill in making flour and fat do what she wanted.  She was a queen of pies, but I was a disinterested bystander.  I wish I had taken advantage of her knowledge because my husband loves pies.  No, not the overly sweet and fruity kind.  He loves steak and kidney pie, steak and mushroom pie, and a citrusy lime or lemon meringue.  I can do the filling, but the crust is always dicey.  Am I alone in my failure?  Do a search for “perfect piecrust” or “no-fail” piecrust and see how many people have a single recipe they can turn to in order to accomplish this pastry miracle, and how different those recipes are.

We can all point to what we missed in our own education, but my challenge to you is to figure out what it is that you can pass on to someone else.  What do you do well, which could benefit a younger person?  It seems there are a lot of chirping crickets in the passed down knowledge department.

My daughter volunteered to help freshmen move in at her university yesterday.  We thought it was serendipitous timing that Doonesbury posted this cartoon just before the start of the school year.  This is missing knowledge that in years gone by would not have been optional, lost on the PVG or post-velcro generation.

Take the deliberate (mindful) step of passing on some knowledge to someone.  Let them watch you waterbath a cheesecake, remove and replace old caulking, change spark plugs, or mitre cut baseboards.  You may end up with more than a passive learner, and the joy you receive from being a mentor is something achieved no other way.

I would love to hear how you passed something on!



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