Recycling

"Purpose is what gives a life meaning." --Charles H. Perkhurst

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I'm in southern California. It's Father's Day weekend; the dozen or so greeting cards (now a couple of weeks old) on my folks' fireplace mantel are from family and friends wishing my Mom a Happy Birthday. Life goes on, whether we're ready for it to do so or not.

"I can't believe Geno's not here," Don said to me a couple of days ago after we'd first set foot in Mom and Dad's condo. Usually we'd walk in the door and find our way to Dad. Until a couple of years ago, we'd arrive and find him--tanned, dapper--in the family room, sitting in his favorite brown leather recliner, reading The Los Angeles Times. But after esophageal cancer began to take its toll, my southern California siblings moved the well worn recliner into a light-filled corner of the master bedroom. Still dapper, still tanned from afternoons sitting out on the back patio, Dad resumed his usual reading in his recliner, determined not to fuss about a disease over which he ultimately had little control.

Don and I and our kids would arrive at the condo, make our way to the master bedroom; Dad would look up from his newspaper. "Well, look who's here," he'd say, his hazel-brown eyes radiating warmth and tenderness. "Good to see you, kids."

For a few months after Dad passed away no one could bear to move the recliner. We simply left it in the bedroom, as if Dad might return from a long trip to an unknown destination. And it helped to look at it, run our hands along the soft leather, look at the indentations and color variations from decades of Dad sitting there.

But now Dad's leather recliner has found a renewed purpose. It's back in the family room. Mom sits in it for much of the day, watching television, reading the newspaper, visiting with friends, napping. She has severe, debilitating arthritis in her hands, back, neck, shoulders, feet; everywhere. The soft, supple leather chair, it turns out, gives her some measure of comfort. Seeing her in it, reclined back with her eyes closed, I picture Dad holding her. I'm here, sweetheart.

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Yesterday my sister Shelly took me to a store called Buffalo Exchange. "This is one of Alyssa's favorite places to shop," she said. "It's so cool." Alyssa just turned 15. The store was filled with teenage shoppers (but the clothing would work for any age, depending on what you're looking for) happily rifling through circular racks, checking out gently worn, hip, affordable clothing. Wish I'd known about Buffalo Exchange when my kids were younger. It's been around since the 1970s. How had I never heard of it? What a great concept.

From the website:

The first Buffalo Exchange opened in 1974 in Tucson, Arizona by Kerstin and Spencer Block. To our knowledge, this was the very first store that bought, sold, traded and took clothing items and accessories on consignment. Kerstin, being Swedish, thought the word 'Buffalo' was very American. And since the store was going to be an 'Exchange,' the store's name was born. The store was in a 450 square foot space that had been an old union office on a side street near the University of Arizona. Kerstin's love of fashion and thrill in finding a bargain combined to create the company that now has 43 stores and 2 franchises in 15 states, with $64.4 million a year in revenue (as of Dec 2010). Buffalo Exchange is an independent and privately held company and the founders manage the day-to-day business. Kerstin and her daughter Rebecca still own and run Buffalo Exchange out of Tucson.

Buffalo Exchange offers a great way to support the American economy. Think about it. Yes, most of the clothing was made in China. But now it's going through a second life, one where all the monies earned are recycled back into this country, with some going to the sellers, some to the clerks, some to the franchisees, some to the owners. And all this represents capital, or purchasing power for our citizenry. And for teens, who are notoriously fickle about what they buy--they love something one day and can't stand it the next--it's a great way to purchase clothing on a limited budget / allowance. Thanks, Kerstin Block, for Buffalo Exchange. As American apparel manufacturers create jobs in China and elsewhere, your creativity and can-do spirit is making a difference in our economy. So glad you immigrated to our country from Sweden. We need more citizens like you.

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Meanwhile, with each passing day, Dad's words from the 1970s seem prophetic. It's as if he'd read our country's palm and saw what was to come. If you keep sending jobs overseas, you'll send capital with it. Unemployment will rise. No economy can sustain that kind of loss. And this from today's paper seems to validate his words:

California's up-and-down recovery took another turn for the worse in May as employers shed a net 29,200 jobs from payrolls, a surprisingly large loss following the healthy gains earlier this year…The unemployment rate inched down to 11.7 percent…But analysts saw little to cheer, saying that the decline in the rate probably reflects growing numbers of Californians who have given up the job hunt or who have left to seek work elsewhere…The trend mirrors a gloomier outlook nationally, with both unemployment and economic growth slowing…

--"State Suffers a Steep Hiring Drop," The Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2011

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Happy Father's Day, Dad. Miss you.