A Mim's Eye View: From the Heart of Vermont

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:    17 October 2017   :    a PUBLIC SERVICE of The Public Press   :
cover: A Mims-Eye View by Miriam Herwig excerpted from A Mim's-Eye View: From the Heart of Vermont

In Defense of the Kitchen

It was only a Campbell's Soup ad, but it rubbed me the wrong way. There was a gray-haired veteran of twenty-five years of marriage sweetly stating that she wasn't going to spend her golden years in the kitchen. Since when has the kitchen been considered a woman's reformatory? Why, I have already spent 32 "golden" years in my kitchen, where guests always enter our home. There, the sun shines in all day long—when it shines anywhere. There, the babies' bassinettes have rested under my watchful eye.

A Boston rocker sits invitingly near our old black kitchen range where a tea-kettle is humming. Over the red-checked trestle table hangs the kerosene lamp with flower-painted shade and pendant prisms, given my grandmother after she had played the church organ for 25 years. In the windows are sweet-scented geraniums, marigolds, and begonias, a pattern of lacy greenery against the deep snow outside.

The nerve center of this big house is in one corner, with telephone, intercom, radio and files. On a yellow table I do my writing and corresponding. And on the wall hangs my prized possession—a brass anemometer gauge which not only shows the current wind velocity on this windswept hilltop, but also registers the gusts day and night.

Not to be forgotten is the gaily designed Chiswick jar, always miraculously filled with homemade cookies for big and little. Then there is the bird feeder outside the window to provide interest and education for young grandsons, as well as myself. On one wall a blackboard offers space for messages and artwork, and relief maps graphically show our green mountains and valleys.

Occasionally on winter evenings, my husband will read a good book aloud as I knit or mend near the warmth of the kitchen stove. The yellow cat and the spotted dog bask luxuriously nearby, showing their preference for life in the kitchen. Tantalizing smells arise in the kitchen from fresh-baked gingerbread, slow-cooking stew or spicy applesauce. Perhaps this is why the kitchen table has always been a favorite spot for homework.

Doomed to life in the kitchen, where I am mistress of all I survey? No, after being sufficiently liberated to be active in church, school and civic affairs, I feel privileged to have such a warm domain of my own. Up with kitchens!

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It Doesn't Make Cents

Our government lost $60.2 million last year minting pennies, because every penny costs 2.41 cents to produce. The cost is growing: in 2000, we lost only $27.4 million.

Why can't we wise up like Canada? They have stopped making shiny new pennies. Likewise, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. That makes us rather a backward country.

Of what use is a penny? It won't buy penny candy anymore, and it usually ends up being stored in a jar.

Pennies aren't the only losing proposition: nickels cost 11¢ to produce and distribute, losing $56.5 million last year. An unusual solution has been proposed. The United States could "kill two birds with one stone" by abolishing the nickel and revaluating the penny at five cents.

The authority to abolish coinage lies with Congress, which, even now, is studying ways to make pennies more cheaply. They accomplished its composition change thirty years ago when the penny was 95% copper and 5% zinc. Ever since, pennies have been copper-plated zinc, with copper only 2.5%. How much lower can they expect to go?

Ben Franklin said, "A penny saved is a penny earned." I say, "A penny abolished is $60 million saved."

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Growing Old: Thoughts on the Gift of Bonus Years

"Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be." So admonished Robert Browning, the patron saint of us oldies. And we have been following his advice in droves. We who were led to expect to live the Biblical three score and ten years hardly noticed that milestone as we surged along.

Eighty used to be considered a ripe old age, but such landmarks are falling left and right as we sail into old age. A quenchless thirst for what comes next finds us greeting each morning with enthusiasm (well, most mornings).

How much of this vim and vigor we owe to the ever more knowledgeable medical profession, and how much to our genes, we will never know, but we make a deep bow to those who have expanded our life expectancy.

It was not always thus. Even in the very old days, women were predominantly the survivors, as they are today. But, after bearing a dozen children on the average, and expecting to lose a tooth for each baby, they were often toothless and hunched. Nevertheless, they would sit near the hearth and make themselves useful by knitting.

Of course, not all were so fortunate. I remember seeing in a museum an adult-size cradle, where some much-loved aged relative was soothingly rocked and kept warm.

When, and if, we become dependent on others for our care, let us, out of gratitude for the extra years we've been granted, be as agreeable as possible, and never let us lose our sense of humor!

cover: A Mims-Eye View by Miriam Herwig
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