Recycled memories

Rhonda Silence

No matter how many great toys there are in the big toy chest in the corner of my living room, my grandchildren have always been drawn to the Rubbermaid container in the kitchen holding cans and bottles for recycling. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to turn a crawling infant or a wobbly toddler away from the bin, back to the living room where the brightly colored high-tech toys can be found.

There is something irresistible about empty two-liter Coke bottles or ice cream buckets or soup cans. And, being the nice grandmother I am, I’ve let all of the grandkids play with them at some point. They’ve all almost outgrown that stage, but I hope they remember that their grandma let them dig through the recycling— after making sure that the bottles were clean and the soup cans had smooth edges, of course. Once it was safe, I let them go to town, rolling the bottles around on the floor. Crunching them to make all kinds of racket. Even letting them have a wooden spoon to clang on the cans.

The ultimate temptation is the monster jugs that hold laundry soap. Those brightly colored orange or yellow bottles with the convenient carrying handle just seem to call out to little kids. So, yes, I’ve let them play with those too.

In a way I’m carrying on a family tradition. Seeing the grandkids rummaging through the bin of plastic bottles reminds me of some silly recycling that my mother did when I was a little girl. I can barely remember it, but I am helped by an image in an old black-and-white photo.

All of us have old pictures that we remember fondly, that bring happy memories rushing back. I am very lucky. There are many such photos in the thick photo albums put together by my mom. There are photos of my little friends and me on swings and tricycles when we lived in the “little house” in Grand Marais. There are snapshots of our family trips to Isle Royale and at “the farm” with my grandparents. There are images of many pretty birthday cakes and many happy birthday parties.

And one photo that brings sweet memories into focus features Hi-Lex bottles. I don’t know if Hi-Lex is even made anymore. We certainly don’t use it in our laundry like we did in the ’50s and ’60s. My mom must have used a lot, because I remember a lot of crafts made with Hi-Lex jugs, such as Easter baskets and curler and clothespin containers.

And as featured in the picture in question, the white plastic jugs provided an afternoon of entertainment for my baby sister and me. I don’t know if my mom dreamed up the idea to amuse us or if she found it in a lady’s magazine, but it was a great low-tech idea.

Mom strung yarn through a few Hi-Lex bottle handles and somehow attached them to the ceiling, where the dangling bottles offered hours of fun. We swung them back and forth and used them as punching bottles and probably stayed out of Mom’s hair for a few hours. A very clever idea from a very clever mother.

Thanks Mom—Happy Mother’s Day!

Enjoy the little things in life,
for one day you’ll look back
and realize they were the
big things.

Robert Brault

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2013-05-11 digital edition

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