Machine Girl

by Hannah the Zebra

Machines. I like machines. They do things for you. Take a good circular saw, for instance. Or a chop saw. Or a table saw…. They cut your work by about 99%. Or a good drill. Mmerrrrrrrrr. That is a sweet, sweet sound. I asked for a drill for my birthday present about 36 years ago. It is a middle-of-the-line Sears Craftsman, which is what my father-in-law always said was the best value for the money. He was right. That drill still works as well as it did when it was new, although I can’t use it as much now. When I showed it to him after I had received it, his reaction was, “Man! You could put up siding with this. It has enough insulation around the motor to be able to use it all day.” That pleased me enormously. I didn’t have any intention of putting up siding, as my small frame couldn’t lift wooden panels that large. But I did use it for repairing things around the house. Or very occasionally, building things.

Or think about cars. You only have to feed them petrol and oil occasionally. No oats required. And the occasional repairs and maintenance are less than the vet bills for a horse, I can assure you. You might argue that the older the car gets, the more maintenance and repairs are needed. But the same thing can be said about horses. The older Old Bess gets, the more she needs to see the vet. (And you think the vet is expensive for your dog?) Your mechanical horse doesn’t need to be curried, exercised, or sheltered. I mean, it’s nice to shelter your car in a garage, but it’s not necessary.  And let me just say that you don’t have to shovel out the muck from your car’s stall. No. Muck. That’s a plus right there. Admittedly, the car doesn’t muzzle you affectionately, and you can’t feel it’s warm, sweet breath on your neck on a cold day. But, come on guys, you just need to buck up. You have to sacrifice some things after all. And if you absolutely insist on warmth, there now are cars with heated seats. Another great invention, since they keep you far warmer than the car robe that I had to drape over my lap during a couple of New York winters just to keep from freezing my bazooties of in the back seat of my grandparents’ car.

All this, of course, is not even mentioning such modern inventions as vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, and the like. My grandmother (the same one who always had afternoon tea waiting for me), had an electric wringer washing machine that we had to connect to the sink once a week, and then hang the laundry out in the yard or in the cellar. I swear to God it looked like this, only our wringer was electric.

Old Washer-L.jpg05cc6bfd-9c2d-4d25-81a2-49bee178061aLarger

And no, it’s not because I’m that old. Until the two years my mom and I lived with her parents, I had only seen washing machines like that in pictures. It’s because my grandparents lived out in farming country in New York where everybody had their own well, and we were in the middle of a drought. I was told at the time that the wringer machine used less water than a modern washing machine, and it was thus a necessity, but I also suspect that the State Historical House we lived in, built in 1804 and proudly displaying a New York Sate Historical Landmark sign out in front, didn’t have the necessary electrical wiring for a more modern machine.

I write all this because, well, I sometimes have to remind myself that I am more than my CVID deficiency. And I truly do like machines. I miss being able to do all the repairs around the house. When our younger daughter and her family visit and they do major repairs for me, such as insulating the garage, I will go out and stand there, just smelling the sawdust. It has such a clean, productive smell. Hanging around in the garage is bittersweet, because it makes me realize just  how much I miss being able to do such things. I didn’t always enjoy the actual process; sometimes it was really frustrating when things didn’t go the way they were supposed to. But when I was done, I would have such a feeling of accomplishment. There’s just something so satisfying about looking at something that you have fixed or built with your hands (and machines!), and knowing that now it works. Or it’s something that can be used. Like the bookcase I once built for our daughters and they used for the next 10 years. I miss that. But I am grateful that others can do it for me. And I can still haul a couple of 2x4s in my car when I need to. I can even load them in, which I couldn’t do two years ago.

Our lives change with CVID. But don’t all lives change? My life changed when I got married, when I gave birth to my children, when they went off to college, when my husband has gone through illnesses. Our lives change when we lose loved ones, or we accept a new job. And change, even the best change, is hard. We have to accommodate and learn to live within our new selves. What we need, I think, in all cases, is to possess a combination of grit and grace. In this case, we need grit to keep fighting, through trial and error, to improve our health and get the necessary medical care. To make it through another day, to still manage to love and care about others. And the grace to accept that we are not the same as we once were. That our lives are in many ways diminished, more unpredictable and constrained. But we’re still here. And fighting. And that’s sayin’ something. That’s sayin’ a lot.