The Clothespin and the Rubber Band

I have many memories of accompanying my mom to the grocery store when I was little. We’d go up and down the aisles, methodically checking everything off our list.

Each season, the front of the grocery store would be papered with art done by children in the area, myself included. To clarify, it wasn’t so much “art” as it was simply a display of pictures — all the same — with various takes on how best to color them in. Each December, there would be rows upon rows of the same Christmas tree outline, all colored in differently. Some had stars on top, some had candles resting on the branches, most had been adorned with ornaments; some were the expected green hue, while others had seemingly fallen into the hands of a world-class scribbler who opted to go for an orange or yellow pine tree.

By spring, Christmas trees would be traded for Easter scenes. Summertime brought pictures of palm trees and beach balls, and the fall showcased pictures of Thanksgiving turkeys followed by Jack-o’-Lanterns. I can’t remember if it was just a chance for kids to see their creativity on display, or if there was an award to see who colored within the lines the best. But I remember it all like it was yesterday.

Today I got home and needed a quick snack, so I grabbed my bag of pita chips from the cupboard, munched away for a few minutes, then began to put the bag back.

I squeezed all the air out, rolled the top of the bag down and reached for the clip that held it closed — and then a memory came rushing back.

It’s funny how some things that you look back on take on new meaning with age. What I never realized when I was growing up was how good my parents were at sticking to a budget because they were young adults with two kids to raise. Up and down the aisles my mom and I would go, and I’m sure I would reach for the brightly colored twisty straws and ask if we could get them, or a sheet of girly, sparkly stickers that hung from a skinny display rod that jutted out from the shelving. Each time my mom would gently explain that we didn’t need them, that we needed to get what we came for, and then we’d head home.

It was a similar story with things like chip clips. Their vibrant shades were always catching my eye, and I always thought how much more sense it made to use them, instead of using a recycled rubber band or wooden clothespin.

What’s even more funny is how all through my 20s I would go to the grocery store and never buy those same chip clips. I’d see them, admire their colors, then think to myself, “Nope, don’t need ’em,” and I’d continue on my journey through Ralphs. If you’d seen my cupboards back in the day, you would’ve caught a glimpse of bags held shut with rubber bands like those from my childhood, or even with a paperclip bent in a crafty manner. I’ve also (and often) used that heavy duty silver duct tape, which I’ve found to be a wonderful solution to any single girl’s needs (I put it in the same category as Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding – it “fixes” a ton of things).

(Truth be told, that silver duct tape does hold a partially used bag of dry cat food closed really, really well.)

A couple years ago, I decided I would buy a few chip clips, and the next time I went to the store, I snagged some. Interestingly, it wasn’t without a slight feeling of guilt. I knew I didn’t need them, but there was something so exciting about being able to finally have my own, and to be able to use them. Unnecessary, yes — but I’m grateful for that valuable lesson that I’ll always carry with me.

Tonight I am thankful for the lesson that a clothespin and a rubber band can teach. When remembering how much I thought it made sense to have them, what has made more sense to me over the years is the value of doing without those small things we talk ourself into thinking we need. The clothespin and the rubber band remind me that even though something may look great and worthy of a purchase, it’s often times unnecessary. “Want” versus “need” is something I try to consider more regularly, and while I caved and now have my very own set of four chip clips (the purple is my favorite), I will forever value my penchant for saving rubber bands and finding new, crafty ways of using duct tape around the house (and kitchen).

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