We all have them. We all use them. We devote pegboarded walls and kitchen drawers to them, not to mention entire sheds and garages. The man cave rose like a phoenix out of a tool shed, didn’t it? Tools are an economic powerhouse – their ample accessibility in Home Depot and Lowe’s has altered the course of family weekends forever (not quite as bad as travel sports – but that’s a post for another day). And just as we do with our children, we often forget their names. Hand me that thing. Where’s that whozeewhatsis? I need one of those whatayacallits. Perhaps a dinner guest of ours summed up their utility best as he watched me summon my trusty long tongs to secure an out-of-reach item from the top shelf. “Tools. They are what separate humans from animals.”
My dad’s workbench in our basement was littered with screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers and pliers. Repurposed Gerber baby food jars held various nails, screws, and nuts and bolts. He had a small vice on the counter that really pinched your skin! It also left an incriminating dimple on stuff you weren’t supposed to be vicing. No wonder he didn’t want us poking around in there.
My mom’s tools included knitting needles in every imaginable color, length and circumference, stitch counters, measuring tape and rulers. A sewing machine and kit with stitch pullers, straight pins, needles, thimbles, scissors and chalk. And in the kitchen, the tools of the cook: spoons, spatulas, pots, pans, pyrex, Corning Ware (this was the 60s and 70s, remember). The coffee percolator with all its various pieces was a mystery unto itself, kind of like how my food processor is to my husband these days. Assemble at your own risk.
I do love my own kitchen tools now, and I recognize and fully accept that I have become my mother – I see it in the look from my teens that I remember so well, that dispassionate, devil-may-care (read: the devil may care, but we sure don’t) look I get when they hear me whine, “Where are my good scissors?” As I learned to cook, I accumulated lots of tools that were designed to make the job easier. Like a moth to the flame, I discovered the housewares mecca – Ikea marketplace. Clean, shiny, and super efficient – who could resist those Swedish names? All consonants and umlauts. I was hooked. It didn’t take too long, thank goodness, to realize I actually didn’t need most of it! Ok, the lack of storage maybe helped shed some light. I really don’t miss that tortilla warmer, avocado slicer or four extra colanders. Really.
My favorite tools are the unconventional epiphanies. Binder clips enabled my vinyl zippered Jeep window to stay unflappably half-open. Clothespins keep bags of chips and cereal plenty fresh – brazenly doing so with no “chip clip” label. Toothpaste makes my silver jewelry sparkle and shine, AND it helps buff out water stains from furniture! Rubber bands keep straws in place on sports bottle lids, and they work incredibly well as slipknot waistband extenders, staving off the unenviable yet inevitable maternity jeans. And remember those tongs? Daily, they make up for the 6-8 inches I’m lacking in height and arm length to snatch items without dragging out the stepstool. I am human – hear me roar.