We met her about a month ago under while we were dumpster diving.
Allison had tipped me off that the people next door were moving out and they seemed to have a good desk in the dumpster. Now, we had been looking for a good desk for me ever since we moved here. The only work surface I had was designed for a child and I am not a child. Months of knee cramps plus the idea of saving a classy desk from the dump was enough to send me out the door in about three seconds. Allison must’ve been equally excited, since she got stung by a wasp three times on the ankle when we were walking over and was still climbing all over the dumpster with me. She was only foaming at the mouth a little, so I assumed it was her usual excited face.
We get over there and I immediately see the desk. It’s a boxy wooden frame with a huge 3-ft. X 3.5 ft. work surface and more than enough clearance for my knees. I climb in and start to wrestle it out. Just when I was about to shift the weight to the edge, I heard a polite voice from the porch.
“Do you need anything else?”
Well, this is embarrassing. I’m standing in her dumpster wearing a Young Livers shirt from high school, wrestling with her old furniture and she was just politely watching us.
The thing is, she was serious. It would be easy to read that as a sarcastic challenge. “Eh, Buddy! You wanna take any more of my stuff?!” She was totally genuine, though. Not only was she happy to see the desk used, she let us use her hose to clean it off.
She had moved to Peterborough with her Husband over forty years ago. Her kids were all grown now and her Husband recently passed away. She’s now decided to move away to retire, since maintaining the house and being a landlord is too much for her now. She now has to figure out what to do with all of their belongings that she won’t use at her new place.
This was the first time that Allison and I interacted since we’d had a huge fight the day before. Things were fragile between us and neither of us were sure where it was going. Then we’re there together, working to get this desk out of the dumpster and hearing all of Maria’s stories of her life with her husband, hearing all the heartache from losing him, and everything got a little more clear.
We had a fight.
We still loved each other.
Something of that must’ve came through, because Maria seemed pretty fond of us. So much so, in fact, that she invited us in to see if there was anything else we could use.
Here’s where the title comes in.
Her husband was primarily a teacher and a philosopher. In his spare time when he wasn’t writing, he enjoyed building things. Maria showed me his tools: a jig saw, a ratchet set, two carpenter’s squares, a clamping saw horse, a palm sander, and a circular saw.
“Do you think you could use them?” she asked me.
It’s hard to describe exactly what I felt right then. On the surface, the answer was obvious; Yes I could definitely use these and have been looking for tools like these for a good year now. There was so much more there, though. She could have sold them. She could have given them to her kids. I told her as thankfully and as humbly as I could that I could use the tools. When she told me that she would check with her oldest son first, I supported her completely and was honest that she could probably get $200 from this set.
When I got a call a few days later and was told that she would like to give them to me, I knew exactly what the first project was going to be.
Now, I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to make gifts out of first time projects. I’d certainly made enough spatulas and spoons to feel confident, and I also figured that it was a pretty safe gift for someone who was about to move.
After a few days of working on and off (dramatically decreased from the couple of weeks when I was only working with hand tools), I was able to finish this maple spatula and give it to her when we had her over for roasted chicken and root vegetables on Sunday.
For the record, this is how I want my belongings dealt with at the end of my life.