After graduating high school in May of 1979, I made plans to move out on my own right away. I was excited about having my own digs, so I applied for work as a bookkeeper for an accounting firm in a nearby city, just 16 miles away. Once I completed my interview and was offered the job, my Mom and I set out to look at apartments. We found one in the downtown area, located just a block from my employer, on the second floor of an electronics store. The apartment had only a few furnishings provided, but Mom said I could borrow an old couch that was in storage, and she was sure she could also help me with a few other necessities I would need to start up housekeeping on my own.
I was only 17 years old at that time and, since I had never been on my own before, had never given much thought to what all I might need to get by. When I did think about it, my focus was on personal items like clothes, toiletries, and makeup. Fortunately, Mom thought of the household, practical items I would need. Together, we shopped for cleaning supplies and basics, like paper towels and toilet paper. For dishes, Mom asked me to pick out which style of the popular Corelle dinnerware I wanted. I chose the green Spring Blossom pattern. Along with these dishes, Mom bought me some simple flatware and a set of green Anchor Hocking glassware.
To provide me with other necessary items, like pots, pans, and cooking utensils, Mom parted with extras from her own supply at home. I felt really special when Mom gave me a set of kitchen tea towels from her own hope chest that she had made as a young girl. I could never imagine how Mom managed to scrape up enough money to help me get started out. After all, she still had my four siblings at home to provide for and take care of, and money was always tight. I was overwhelmed by her love and giving, knowing she had probably shorted herself somehow, by helping me to get set up on my own.
Then, on the day she helped me move, I received even more gifts. These came in the form of some other “extra” things she had at home – blankets and sheets for the bed, bathroom towels, and a casserole dish. In one box, I was delighted to find a small set of kitchen knives and, in another, I discovered the prize of all prizes – a brand new Sunbeam Mix Master hand mixer! I think that was the moment when I burst into tears. I had been holding back all day that day as it was, but when I realized my Mom could have likely used a new mixer herself, I became quite emotional and humbled. I am sure Mom had no idea how much her caring and love meant to me that day. All of these things she did to help me get started on my own meant the world to me.
Over the years, I passed on some of the more-durable items Mom gave to me, back then, to my brother or sisters as each moved out on their own. Other, less long-lasting items, were tossed or put on garage sales along the way. Eventually, of the bounty I received from Mom back in 1979, only two things remained when I moved to Oklahoma in 1990: the now ratty-looking and slightly stained tea towels, and the Sunbeam Mix Master.
Oh, sure, I know I could have disposed of the tea towels long ago, but I still have them stuffed in a lower drawer in my kitchen. And we do use them, though mostly for wiping eyeglasses since they are soft from years of washing, and just right for drying delicate items. Somehow, I could never throw out the handiwork that my Mom so lovingly produced as a young girl. Each towel has a word inked on it that describes the gradual process of a couple in love.
And, I cannot begin to count how many meals and desserts the Sunbeam hand mixer had helped me produce over the years. Back then, electric appliances did not have all of the power speeds the mixers of today have. My Sunbeam simply had a “Burst of Power” button that offered a little extra “oomph” when needed. At some point, the power cord wore through and a friend spliced on a new one so it could continue to do its magic. Once, I even dropped the mixer, and it landed on one of the beaters, bending it terribly. Unfortunately, no replacement beaters could be found, but with a little hammering and prying, I managed to make it work alongside its mate again.
Then, last week, the unthinkable happened. My old friend of 34 years began to put off a funny odor while I was in the middle of whipping some mashed potatoes. Immediately, I flipped the toggle switch to OFF. At first, I blamed the potatoes for producing the odd smell. You know how it is with the first signs of illness – you blame it on something else. You are in denial. I first sniffed the potatoes. Hmm, seemed a lot like normal potato aroma. Next I inhaled near the vented area on the mixer and it did smell a bit hot, but it looked just fine. I flipped the toggle switch back on. WHAT?? Did I just see sparks? Surely not. I switched it off again, this time hollering across the house for FD to come have a look. By then, my worst fears were ebbing their way into my brain. I could feel my chest tighten and I almost wanted to cry. Just then, FD verbalized what I did not want to hear – Ms. Sunbeam was “fried”. I tried two more times, flipping the switch on, then off. As a result, more sparks, and a more intense burning smell, emitted from the vented area. Sadly, our mashed potatoes would remain a little lumpy this night.
After her meltdown, I left Ms. Sunbeam on the counter for almost a week, before photographing her one last time. I removed the beaters… and then the emotions just overcame me. Silly, I know. It was not so much my attachment to the mixer itself that had me in tears. It was that, for 34 years, I thought of my Mom’s gift every time I used that mixer. With remorse, I placed the old girl in the trash, along with other kitchen discards from the past couple of days’ meals. Fitting, I thought, the old gal would likely want to spend her final resting time with friends and ingredients she had spent decades blending, whipping, and beating into lovely creations.
As for the beaters I saved, I cannot tell you the number of times I have had to clean them during meal preparation, just to use them right away again on something else. So, I am stashing the old beaters back as a spare set, just in case I can locate another Sunbeam Mix Master of the same model. That way, I can simply toss the “dirty” set in the sink, grab the extra set, and whip up the next dish or ingredient that requires mixing without having to stop and clean a pair of beaters.
I love vintage items like my Sunbeam mixer and, after researching some of the newer, super speedy and mega-powerful units, and reading the poor reviews they get, I realize how happy I was, always having a reliable, old friend in my kitchen. I know my “new” vintage purchase will never have the same sentimental value my original Ms. Sunbeam had for me, but still, I will always remember my Mom’s wonderful gift of so many years ago, each time I flip the toggle switch and hear my new, old friend begin to hum!
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…