“To thine own self be true.”

“Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”


Most advice I’ve gotten over the years I’ve forgotten or ignored. Sometimes I listen.

Lately, two pieces of advice from 50 years ago and more intrude. One of them was useful, the other …

The plastic bag trick

Covid19 restrictions in assisted living mean more plastic everywhere, from garbage bags to disposable cups to sheets of clingy wrap encasing every separate item of food. It’s maddening, but what can one do?

Anyway, every time I have to open a new garbage bag, I remember the advice of a fellow customer at the Berkeley Co-op in about 1970: wet your fingers.

We probably did it by licking our fingers then, as the automatic produce sprinklers that moisten everything and for awhile spread Legionnaires’ Disease were still a few years off. Now I would no more lick my fingers than sneeze into a washable hankie.

No matter. A quick touch of water from a faucet or a sink moistens the fingers. Rub the edges, and the plastic parts.

The thread issue

Less useful was advice from my mom, who showed me as a child how to thread a needle. Use the end just clipped from the spool, she advised, as the other end might be slightly frayed.

What she didn’t know and I didn’t tumble to until quite recently is that thread has a nap. Run your fingers down a strand, both ways, and feel the subtle difference. To sew with the nap, you have to use the “frayed” leading end to thread your needle. Just clip off the frayed part.

All these decades I’ve been threading needles the way Mom taught me and pulling thread through fabric the wrong way, like petting a cat in the wrong direction. This is admittedly minor, but the idea of pulling thread through the unsmooth way all these years is daunting.

Now I know better. Am I better off for knowing? Only that every time I thread a needle I’m reminded of Mom.

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