In the entire universe of possibilities there is only one way of doing anything correctly.
Or so says my pig-headed electric mixer.
Apparently the engineers who designed it believed that the world had reached the pinnacle of human achievement and that nothing would ever change again so they built it to do the same thing in the same way forever.
To that end they made it indestructible.
Its working parts are enclosed in a thick shell of stamped steel and the case is coated with the same tough enamel used to protect fork-trucks from dings and dents. If you drop it, and I have, it will break whatever it hits.
It has a toughness that extends beyond the physical.
If a recipe calls for 4 cups of flour and you mistakenly add 4 ¼, the mixer will dust the counter with a ¼ cup of flour.
If you add too much salt, it will flick away the excess.
If you add an extra egg, you’ll be wearing it.
My mixer refuses to mix Crisco or vegetable oil. It is old school and is only willing to work with lard.
On the other hand, if you neglect something, the mixer will neglect to run until you realize your mistake and then once you have corrected your error, it will exact a price – least you err again.
So why do I keep it?
Well… it is an heirloom of sorts.
It belonged to my grandmother, a woman, who unlike her mixer, was open to everything the world had to offer.
Back in our hippie years, she was the one who Stan and I looked to as a bridge to her generation. Whenever we returned – homeless, hungry and broke from one of our hitch-hiking trips, she took us in, fed us and found small jobs around the neighborhood so we could rebuild our stake and head out again. Whenever we got in trouble (which we did a lot) she reminded those who would judge us of their own foolish years.
She was without a doubt our favorite person.
Which was troubling when one day, she called to ask, “Have you seen my electric mixer?”
“Sure,” I told her, “I am looking at it now,. Stan must have borrowed it without asking. He does that.”
“I spoke to him,” she said,
“What did he say?”
“He told me he liberated it.”
“I’ll bring it back.”
“Don’t bother. You keep it. When I spoke with Stan, he said I cared too much about objects and accused me of being materialistic.”
“Don’t listen to him,” I said, “he’s lazy and is just looking for an excuse to not return your mixer.”
“But he is right.”
“C’mon, you know Stan.”
“I do,” she said, “But I want you to keep the mixer. It once meant a lot to me but not so much anymore. You know,” and here she paused,”the day I got it was one of the happiest days of my life…”
“I hope it wasn’t a wedding present..”
“No, I married your grandfather in 1922,” she said, “this was in June of ’36.
“Let me tell you about it.
“That morning when I was crossing the yard from the barn to the house, I noticed something working its way across the horizon. I could barely make out the crew or the trucks but the growing line of utility poles was unmistakable. I never cried so hard in my life.”
“Because we didn’t have electricity then – nor telephone and you have no idea what it was like to watch those new poles marching down the road and know that when they finally reached you, the darkness, the isolation and the back breaking work that you grew up with was at an end.
“It meant I could flip on a switch to read at night. I could listen to the radio and call a doctor if a child was sick.
“It meant I could have hot and cold water out of a tap, a washing machine, a refrigerator and maybe even an electric mixer to ease my day around the kitchen.”
“I feel really bad,” I said, “I’ll get it back to you.”
“Absolutely not,” she said, “Stan is right, I should not have gotten attached to something like that because sooner or later everything good will turn out to be bad.”
She continued, “like that mixer. Some people say that electric power plants pollute the air and will be the ruination of the earth…. and here I saw them as something wonderful. But that is just the way life goes. It is always like that.”
“I don’t know what to say,” I said.
“You keep the mixer. It’s a stubborn old thing anyway. A creature of another time.
“Keep it to remind yourself that everything you hold dear, especially the things you hold the dearest, will one day be seen as old fashioned, pig-headed and just plain wrong.”
And of course, she was right.