Monday, August 22, 2016

Rescuing My Hog-Slaughtering Sweater

When my washing machine broke down last autumn, I did what I usually do:  do without.  Repairs were not an option.  So I washed some simple things by hand and used all the towels and sheets until there wasn't a single clean thing in the house before I resorted to going to the laundromat.  And I did that sparingly, too, because those places are so expensive!  Who knew?  The last time I used a public laundry it cost 50 cents a load; now it's more like $5.00.  Craziness.

When I helped my friend prepare for her yard sales this past spring, she allowed me to use her washer.  And when she moved away several months later, the washer became mine in a barter trade.  (By the way, my old washer went to a neighbor who really wanted it, and her husband was able to repair it for next-to-no cost.  Wins all around!  Everyone got what they needed.)

By the time I got the traded-for washer, it was summer and extra loads of laundry were still piled up--sweaters and blankets and quilts from last winter--but I didn't want to run the washer and dryer too often because it heats the house and that means the AC runs more often.  In other words, an unnecessary expense.  So I've done the extra laundry a little at a time over the past couple of months, and I'm finally reaching the end of it.  This morning I discovered, in the last basket, my "hog-slaughtering" sweater.

But, wait!, you say:  aren't you vegetarian?!

Yes, I am.  But I wasn't always, although I've never killed a pig.  And that's not the point anyways.

My family were not exactly DIY experts but we did "make do" stuff at a time when most people didn't, and it was usually to save money (which was more often thin on the ground than not, and I am thankful now that I learned a thing or two back then).  We made soap using the fats that we saved from meats we cooked.  We made our own bread.  We had money-saving ways to deal with milk and butter.  (I'll have to share those simple ideas and recipes one of these days.) 

We didn't use prepared foods or mixes; we made our own.  And one of the "our own" things that we made was sausage patties.  We bought inexpensive on-sale cuts of pork, put them through an old-fashioned crank grinder (wish I still had that thing!), added herbs and spices, put it through the grinder again, then shaped it and froze it.

When we worked on stuff like that, my mother and my grandmother and I generally worked together.  Perhaps that was the nicest part of all--working with someone who respects what you do.  I miss that more than anything.  Working alone for only your own self can be too hard, and it's certainly not as rewarding as doing something for and with others who care about you.

When we worked on stuff like that, it was often during the cool months of the year and we'd keep the house cool because the work was hard.  That's when we all wore our oldest comfiest sweaters.  Mother's sweater was pink with white stripes; Nana's was pale spring green; mine was sky blue.  As an amusing nod to the sausage-making, my mother called hers the "hog-slaughtering" sweater.  She wore it until it truly wore out, repairing it again and again for many years, because absolutely nothing can replace a comfy old well-worn sweater.

These days I have a hog-slaughtering sweater of my own (although there's no sausage, vegetarian or otherwise, to be had).  It's a pretty warm coral-color.  It's well-loved, much-worn, much-repaired.  It's the most perfectly comfortable and comforting sweater, and I can't bear to let it go.  I have been wearing it for more than twenty years.  I wear it on days when the house is cool and there is hard work to do.  I wear it on days when I need the sort of hug that only a beloved old sweater can give. 

It's August now.  It's still hugely hot and humid in South Mississippi, and it will be yet for another couple of months.  But I think I'll work on repairing that old hog-slaughtering sweater so it will be ready for the hard work that must be done in cool days to come.  There's a lot of life left in that sweater yet.

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