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Looking at life through leftovers

After the family leaves a gathering at the farm, there is a lot of picking up to be done. I’ve come to realize these are really reflective times for the mother left behind.
This year, during the holidays, we ate ‘carry out’ from the local Chinese restaurant and had those wonderful predictors of the future, fortune cookies. They are always a lot of fun, and when no one is looking, we use them as a personal appraisal to see if they could be some secret ancient practice giving us insights.
These little message carriers of wisdom were left all around the cabin tables and chairs. I read one that said, ‘The man standing on the mountain top did not fall there.’ It gave me a reason to get up off my lazy duff and get going!
Another said, ‘The entire sum of existence is the magic of being needed by just one other person.’ Now, there is something to get you pondering.
Holiday and family gatherings bring out the philosophical nature in all of us. Sometimes we encounter moments of nostalgia; other times we get the warmest feelings of hope.
I also picked up a lot of empty coffee cups after everyone left ‘ most of my making. Some even had a bit of coffee left in them. It seems every time I sat down in a new location to talk, I felt the need to have a bit of that symbol of sociability.
The empty cups were mostly discarded on the floor. They were set carefully on old rugs I had brought back from trips to Moldova.
I have these handmade rugs in most every room, and they remind me of my friends who live in the poorest country in Europe. I’m very careful of what happens on these rugs and use much caution when placing things on them.
I’m reminded that in Moldova it is a luxury to brew a good cup of coffee. That seems like such a remote idea for us, but I can recall during World War II, the good ole USA had coffee rationing. I can still hear my mother telling my grandfather, ‘We all have to use a smaller glass cup so that there is enough to go around.’
As we take a simple cup of coffee for granted today, along with many of the items we discard, there is a lot to be read into what we set aside. For instance, computers that were on the cutting edge five years ago are now considered old and useless.
However, these obsolete machines are sent to China, where unsuspecting citizens in need of income are disassembling them, despite their questionable hazardous ingredients. What a world we live in. I realize once again that we have been living a pretty favored life here in America.
As my 6-year-old granddaughter and I cleaned up that night, I learned a lot about our family. She asked me questions about the practice of giving and receiving gifts while we threw out crinkled wrapping paper. As you would expect, she has a very limited view of the world and its resources; she just assumes that everyone has what she has.
I asked her how many cars her family owns. She instinctively said that they, of course, had one for each of her parents. To illustrate how good we have it here, we drew a circle that I divided to show the percentage of the people in the world who own a car. However, I couldn’t make a line thin enough. I don’t think she quite believed or understood what I meant, but I did.
As we enter a new year with worries and outright fears about our economy, we will all be shifting our thoughts and habits. Some of these will be tough and painful, but others will put everything into perspective.
Just as historians study the left behinds of our lives to analyze what we did, I think we can learn a lot about ourselves by examining our values and everyday lives, and resetting our compass every now and then.