Down on the bottom tray toward the back, there was an empty pasta jar that had contained the Paul Newman sauce we’d used to make spaghetti the night before. Without thinking, we’d washed the jar in our dishwasher.
Both Jilda and I always wash the jars, although they frequently sit around collecting dust on our counters.
When it gets too cluttered, we reluctantly toss the jars into the trash. Recycling is an option, but it’s a pain for those who live here in Walker County.
But this morning as I reached in to retrieve the jar, I asked myself: “Why do we always wash these, knowing we’ll probably never use them?”
I contemplated the question for a moment and then it occurred to me that both our parents and grandparents did the same thing.
As I flipped through the dusty pages of my memory, I realized that recycling for them was not a fad, and they weren’t doing it because it was “the green thing to do.” They did it to survive.
They lived during the Great Depression where resources were scarce. They could reuse a quart jar to preserve food in the summer, so they could eat in the winter.
In today’s disposable society, that is such a strange concept. We’re conned into thinking the stuff we buy that’s made overseas is cheaper. We use an item a few times, and when it breaks, we toss it in the trash and go buy another one. Things that last are rare these days.
When Jilda’s mother passed away, we worked months in her old house to dispose of all the things they had accumulated through the years.
In the basement were shelves of canned beets, tomatoes, pickles, blackberries, peaches, and okra. There were old rusty tools hanging on the walls that were made early in the 20th century. With a little oil, along with some love and care, the tools would last another 100 years.
Ruby and Sharky left those tools and other stuff from the basement workshop to the kids. When it came to divvying out the tools, Jilda and I chose a long-handled hoe, a tray of wrenches made of real steel and plumbing tools. My other choice was an odd one.
As long as Sharky lived, he collected nuts, bolts and other hardware. If he was in the grocery store parking lot and saw a nut, bolt or washer lying on the ground, he picked it up as if it were a shiny dime. When he got home, he tossed them into a five-gallon bucket.
I inherited that bucket of bolts, and to this day, if my truck, lawnmower, tiller or anything else loses a nut or washer, I always take a long screwdriver and rattle through that bucket of bolts. Nine times out of 10, I’ll find exactly what I need to make repairs.
I guess what I’m saying is that our impulse to save jars, plastic containers, and other things is one that was ingrained from a very early age.
I can’t help believing that our country would be better off if we all learned from our ancestors and recycled more.