Archive for November, 2017

My Mom practically invented recycling. Most people think the big recycling craze just started this last decade or so, but Mary Ann practiced the art of recycling way back in the ‘60s.

The most obvious recycling event at our house happened every August with hand-me-down clothes. I don’t remember buying that many new clothes during grade school as I was always getting someone else’s clothes. I was the runt in my family. Even my younger sisters eventually outgrew me. But mostly, I inherited my older sister Tracy’s clothes. That was fine with me because I thought she had the coolest dresses, and I was lucky to get them two years after they had gone out of style. I also got my cousins’ clothes. Of course after grade school, once I had outgrown the hand-me-downs, Coleen and Melissa got them. But at least by then the clothes had come back into style.

When Tracy and I were toddlers, my Mom made some of our clothes. They were pretty cute for ’60s standards, and always matching. Tracy and I are practically Irish twins, and Mom usually dressed us as actual twins.



Mary Ann made us identical clothes through our early grade school years. I even remember being in a ‘fashion show’ when I was in fourth grade and Tracy was in fifth. We modeled my Mom’s designs: polyester peach elephant pants with peach and blue halter tops. And she had us wear big straw hats and sunglasses. Move over Heidi Klum. Did I mention this fashion show was held in our grade school cafeteria? We were famous for five minutes, then went home smelling like creamed corn.

My Mom couldn’t help but be resourceful. Each year after birthdays or Christmas morning, Mom would quickly snatch up the discarded bows to put in her package-wrapping stash for the next big event. I’m guilty of this today. Well c’mon, I’m not gonna throw out a perfectly good bow; I just take off the used tape so the next person will think they’ve received a fancy new one.

Anyway, Mary Ann reused everything from coffee cans to Cool Whip containers, and she had a big stash of plastic bags. I don’t remember plastic grocery bags when I was a kid, but I certainly remember clear plastic produce bags and bread bags. She would not throw those things away. In fact, she would rinse them out and carefully set them out to dry, by sticking them up on the louvered kitchen window. They came in handy for all kinds of things: storing homemade cookies … packing picnic lunches … making homemade snow boots.

Mom would build up a plastic bag supply before we took a winter trip to Lake Tahoe or somewhere else to play in the snow. Why bother with buying the kids snow boots or galoshes when you have 300 perfectly good plastic produce bags and Wonder Bread bags? Mom would outfit us all in two pairs of socks and our sneakers and then put about five plastic bags over each foot — securing them with leftover rubber bands from newspaper deliveries.

You probably think I make this stuff up.



A little hard to tell above, but those are some plastic bags over our shoes.



I’m on the left in this one above. My plastic bags are already covered in snow and frostbite is setting in so I’m trying to build an igloo for shelter. You can still see through Tracy’s and Coleen’s plastic bags pretty well. Coleen is looking at my Mom as she holds up an ice trophy for “Best Homemade Snow Boots.”

Our fancy plastic bag snow boots would last about an hour until each layer had ripped through appropriately and our feet would get wet and cold. Then we’d retreat to the brown wood-paneled station wagon to thaw out and have some sandwiches — packaged in recycled plastic produce bags.

Thankfully Mary Ann never put two and two together and tried to make our clothes out of plastic bags:


  “Dress up Baby as a loaf of Wonder Bread” by Mike Mozart is licensed under CC BY 4.0



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