I am an Eagle Scout. There, I said it, and at 48 years old I’m finally over the feeling that admitting said accomplishment might result in some kind of machismo-rooted mockery, or worse… a wedgie.
As most people know the motto of the Boy Scouts is “Be Prepared.” Certainly the Boy Scouts have no exclusive claim to the idea of preparedness, but I will give them full credit for instilling the idea in me. I wrote about this idea (sort of) in my book The Penny Collector in a chapter called Hoard In Moderation. If you’d like to read that chapter (and you haven’t bought my book – shame on you), comment below and I’ll send you a PDF.
Last week I was reminded of two stories of preparedness constructed and executed by two exceedingly smart and beautiful women… my wife and my mother.
The Sure Thing
When my wife and I first met in 1998, I lived near New York City, and she lived in Rochester. I logged thousands of miles wooing my lady, and together we made several trips to visit the many members of her large, and far-flung family.
Being a tech-nerd and a constant early adopter of gadgets, I had my first EZ-Pass way back in the mid 1990s. I became very comfortable with traversing New York State with no cash on hand.
One weekend we had a trip planned to Boston. I was to drive up to Rochester from NY on Friday morning. When she finished her shift at the hospital Friday afternoon, we threw our bags into her Jeep and off we headed to Beantown.
We hopped onto the NYS Thruway at Exit 45 in Victor, NY. As I pulled away from the toll plaza, ticket in hand, I realized I had no cash on me. I turned to Emily and said, “Hey, I have EZ-Pass, so I never carry cash when I drive long distances. Do you have enough cash for the toll?”
Oh, we were in a pickle! We had gas, coffee drinks, all of our luggage and presents for the nephews. What we didn’t have was the $7.35 required to cross from NY into MA.
We had 3.5 hours to come up with a solution, so we continued east at 65mph. Stopping at a Thruway Rest Stop and paying some outrageous foreign ATM fee to get some cash was an option, but we both hated the idea. Emily spent a few minutes digging into the seat cushions looking for change, but she soon discovered one of the downsides to keeping a neat and clean car… she found three cents.
About an hour into our predicament she sat up straight and proclaimed, “I’ve got it!”
“What?” I excitedly replied.
As I looked over at her pretty face, it went from excitement to dejection as she said, “Oh, that won’t work.”
Again I said, “What?”
With the continued look of disappointment on her face she said, “Well, I keep a spare $20 in my wallet behind my license, but it’s only for emergencies.”
I will not describe my face. I’m sure whatever you are picturing is better than anything I could possibly write.
I sat contemplatively for a moment, and then, conjuring up my best John Cusack I said, “Maybe one will come up.”
When we got to the border, we used the $20.
Last week my Mom turned 75. Collectively my siblings and I decided to get her a Pandora bracelet and some meaningful beads.
I entered the store with an idea as to what I wanted to get, but as my post of last week clearly illustrated, people make plans and God laughs. Once the clerk told me what I was seeking didn’t exist, I poured over the hundreds of other non-imaginary beads.
Whenever I buy jewelry, I have more success when I stop looking and let the piece find me. I know it sounds a tad new-age for my normally sensible nature, but the practice had never failed me. The Pandora lady presented me with tray after tray of beads.
Who the hell knew demand for Pandora beads was so diverse and voluminous?
About half a dozen trays into the ordeal, I saw it… a simple silver bead with a tiny chain. On the ends of the chain hung a pair of mittens.
My brother, sister and I grew up in Penfield, NY in the house where our parents still live today. Winter starts in upstate NY as early as Halloween and often lasts until May. Our mom was always great about bundling us up to protect against the cold. Not quite to the level of the little brother in The Christmas Story, but well beyond the required minimum.
One of the things she did every summer was knit us mittens. Each year we would shop for winter coats in July or August and then she would get busy knitting mittens that matched the now purchased coats.
By the time the snow flew, we would each have a pair of mittens that both kept our hands warm and maintained a coordinated fashion statement. Honestly, what more could a kid ask for? Well, I’ll tell you.
My parents imbued in us a strong sense of responsibility coupled with a respect for the possessions we were blessed to have. That said, they were realists, and we were kids.
So, as the summer turned to fall, and the mercury dipped toward winter, my mother did not knit each of us two mittens… she knit three.
When you knit mittens, you make the outer part first and then you add the thumb. Some basic knitters will make them both the same, but not my mom. When she added the thumb, it was contoured to perfectly fit the left or right hand… not both.
The third mitten was made in anticipation of the inevitable “lost mitten,” but created with the thumb undone. Once a mitten was lost (and all elementary school lost-and-found searches had been exhausted) she would simply add the proper thumb and you’d be back in business.
If you lost a second mitten you were on your own.
Preparedness is at least as much art as science. The key is in knowing how much preparing is enough without being too much. Now, for your viewing pleasure I give you that scene from The Sure Thing, Happy Monday!
Copyright © 2016 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.