My Electric Mixer

mixerIn 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.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“Huh?…”

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.

Author: Almost Iowa

www.almostiowa.com

35 thoughts on “My Electric Mixer”

  1. Just found your blog and I love it. So true it’s gotta be fiction…

    By the way, I don’t have one of these fancy new fangled mixers crafted with a mind of its own, but I do have a bread machine that’s probably a second cousin.

        1. You are always welcome. I included this note on my About page:

          Note: I have to say this because my style of writing in the first person occasionally fools readers into believing that what I write is true. None of it is. We do not have turtles who run down deer. We do not live next to the Minnesota State Mosquito Refuge, though you wouldn’t know it during the summer.

          All of my stories are fiction. They have to be. The population of my small town is 4 (counting the chickens). Since everyone knows everything about everybody, I have to write in such a way that they can say, “Hey, that’s me!” and at the same time say, “No way, that’s me!”

  2. Loved this one! (And welcome back, by the way). My mother has an electric mixer just like the one in your story, and I’m hoping one of my sisters inherits it when the time comes. And as for that last line, it’s so true. And we would all do well to remember it!

    1. “Is that mixer by any chance a Hamilton Beach?”

      I would go check but the blasted thing is hiding behind twenty crockpots on the bottom shelf of our kitchen counter. To tell the truth, I am a little frightened to reach in there. God only knows what I would find.

  3. I have a friend whose mother remembered the coming of electricity to the Texas Panhandle, and I’ve lived in places where the only source of light was the sun, a fire, or a generator tucked outside a hut to light the single light bulb or play the radio. We live in a country filled with cosseted people who truly don’t have a clue. If, by some curious chance, those who wish to eliminate power plants have their wish granted, I can survive. Whether they will is an open question.

    1. I am old enough to remember when the image of belching smoke stacks was a symbol of progress. They were central to the school of social realism that was carved into public buildings all around Saint Paul and dominated the banner page of the annual Progress Edition of the Pioneer Press. Somewhere around the late 60’s and early 70’s, the symbol and the edition were quietly retired.

      It is what I had in mind when I wrote this piece.

      Despite what our local boy, Thorstein Veblen wrote about conspicuous consumption, most people viewed industrial progress as a social good and a great relief. It is only our generation who after being showered with wealth and gadgets by our born in hardship parents began to look for alternatives.

      I found my alternative in a cabin not far from Haines Junction in the Yukon, a place where God goes to take vacation. It is my ideal – and like most ideals, though I pined for it, I never lived it.

      1. The salesman, when I bought our new fridge at work asked: “how old is the one you’re replacing?” I said “a little over 7 years.” He quipped: “OK, so about average.”

        My mother had the same refrigerator the entire time she was in her house. She gave it away when she moved into an apartment because it was too big.

  4. Hi Greg – long time – I am glad to see there’s plenty for me to catch up with here in Almost Iowa.

    As for this particular post, I was expecting a signature twist at the end – that Grandma had purchased a super-duper stainless Mercedes of a mixer, perhaps. The last line went places I didn’t expect and can’t help wonder at the sub-text.

    Nicely done.

    1. Hey Maggie, great to hear from you. I hope everything is going great for you and yours.

      As to the sub-text of the story, it goes deeper than most people want to go. It is a warning rather than a critique of progressivism. It says simply that the end of history does not stop with any generation, that as each generation tramples on the outdated ideals of its predecessors, so will the next generation trample on their ideals.

      This is not to say that one should not seek progress rather it says that one should realize that history will always move past them into something they probably do not like. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, so it goes.

  5. Reminds me of talks with my grandmother and father of all the changes they experienced in their lifetime. Time moves on… hold onto that mixer its probably better than the ones they make today!

    1. My sister’s father-in-law grew up in Iran in a village whose name meant “small dusty place”. It was like progressing from the stone-ages into modern times. It is amazing how some people can effortlessly make the transition, while others struggle. I suppose it depends on how deep the roots go.

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