The Late-Winter of My Discontent

Weather reports say it may snow in San Francisco tomorrow. That hasn't happened since 1976. We shall see. This morning the rooftops up and down the street were coated white with frost. The dog stayed curled up in its Michelle-purchased bed until noon. Despite the cold temps, the tulip tree in our Czechoslovakian neighbors' yard burst into purple-pink blooms.

The tulip tree owners--a brother and sister in their 80s--once told me about leaving their homeland during the war. I asked how they did that. "Vell, ve valked." I asked how many miles. "Oh, five, six-hundred." They made it to Germany (frying pan to fire), then took a boat to America. If they could leave their family farm, walk for 600 miles and survive the horrors of a world war, surely I could live without foreign made items for a year, right? Can you hear me waver? I am not made of hardy, unbreakable Czechoslovakian stock. I come from a long line of Sicilians. We are good eaters. That's about it.

Clearly, I'm at the point where I need to re-group; form a long term strategy, mimic the approach my two older daughters have always used so admirably before running marathons. They've never just shown up on marathon day and magically run 26+ miles. It takes them months of training. And then, during the race, they pace themselves. I need to do that. Pace myself.

Thing is, I went into this one-year project on impulse, during a highly emotional time. My Dad had just passed away, and I wanted to pay tribute to him. I wanted to keep him close. To feel he was here, talking with me. When I pulled out his writing about the coming trade imbalance, as crazy as it may sound now, it helped. It brought him back to me. I could picture him at his desk, typing away, Tareyton cigarette sending smoke swirls into the air; the beanbag ashtray inches from his electric Smith-Corona. Hunt and peck. Hunt and peck. Okay, Dad, I need a long term strategy here. I'm into this Buy-America thing not even two months and I'm already floundering. At first it was fun, looking at tags and writing down names of countries. But now, well this narrative seems predestined. Everything's Made in China, with a smattering of products made in other countries. So, got any ideas…? Strategy and pacing, right? Must take each challenge as it comes and not rush ahead. Must not panic.

Must not worry that my workout clothes have had it. Or that there's a hole in the shoulder of my favorite navy blue and white striped cotton knit Gap Body zip jacket; the jacket I wear all the time on my walks or while writing. Or that Don needs new shoes for work. And a new car. For now, he's tackling the work-shoe problem.

"I'll take them to the local cobbler," he told me as we ate dinner tonight (grilled chicken skewers, brown rice, sautéed broccoli). Have to say, I've never heard the phrase "local cobbler" spill out of his mouth. "Course who knows where the new soles would come from," he continued. "But at least I'd be supporting a small businessperson. You know that shop up the street? It's a one-man operation. The guy's Russian, I think. Anyway, I'll bring my shoes there and have him cobble new soles onto them. Why buy new shoes? The tops are fine. This is great, the more I think about it. It's not so wasteful."

Great? What planet was he living on? He had holes in the bottom of his shoes, I had a jacket one thread away from unraveling, we'd resorted to money laundering to get Michelle her birthday presents, and had turned to the birthday girl to buy the dog a new bed. Oh yeah, we're doing fine.

Ultimately, this is a solitary journey. The rest of the world is moving along, consuming, buying nifty clothes for spring, and Don and I have dropped out of that game. We aren't joining in the fun. It's so disorienting. But maybe this way really is best. Maybe we don't need long term strategies and mapping for this sort of project. We just need to do it. Period. No wavering. Don was telling me at dinner that studies show the best way to quit smoking (and many, not all, other addictions) is cold turkey. Just go for it. No turning back. That's what my neighbors had to do, when they fled their homeland. They had to quit it. Leave. No wavering, no turning back. How else could they have made their journey? Not by looking back on what they would miss, or looking ahead to how far they had to go, but by putting one foot in front of the other and moving along. Don will go to the "cobbler." I will take my favorite knit jacket to an alterations place to be mended. I will turn on the heat to guard against the winter chill. And for now, that's as far ahead as we can plan.

PS: Found a Made in USA crib mattress for grandbaby-to-be. "Baby Dynasty Eco-Luxe," Made by Kolcraft for Stearns and Foster in North Carolina. Most of Kolcraft's other products are Made in China, but their mattresses are still made here. Surely we should all sleep on American mattresses. Best way to promote American Dreams...