Lofty aspirations.

That’s what most people, whether young or young at heart, embrace as they embark on what’s expected to be a lifelong journey of togetherness commonly referred to in our society as marriage.

In the fashion of slightly more than 50 percent of the U.S. populace, my spouse and I took that meaningful walk down the aisle nearly 29 years ago.

As we prepared for our special April date, we followed the tradition of stipulating certain preferred gifts (ostensibly for the convenience of potential gift-givers) in the bridal registries of a few stores. Here’s a statement-maker: All of the established stores at which we registered in the late 1980s (Dayton’s, Carson Pirie Scott and Brett’s of Mankato) no longer exist.

In those bygone days, scrolling and clicking through a virtual smorgasbord of options from the comfort of one’s own couch was not even an imagined option. No, registering meant physically visiting the stores in question, strolling past shelves and among displays while marking one’s choices on a sheaf of paper checklists.

The paper listings were then kept on file in the respective stores, where wedding guests could stop in to review our handwritten preferences and, if they wished, make a purchase that would then be manually crossed off. (How quaint!) Calling a store to talk to a clerk was also an option for people living at a distance, but that carried potential risks, since one couldn’t personally view the list or items.

Other than selecting a mandatory china pattern (my mother-in-law insisted–and it was Dansk’s Damask Blue, if you’re curious), we found that appliances were among our top priorities.

The gleaming new possibilities dazzled us, and because it seemed there was nothing to lose, we indicated a few fancy Krups and Braun pieces.

That extra-wide white Braun toaster we received lasted maybe two years before biting the crumb tray…er, dust. The showy Krups coffeemaker survived about three years before giving up its caffeine-churning ghost. And the electric Farberware wok I had dreamed of using to cook up exotic stir-fries for our cozy twosome on a regular basis has seen the under-counter lights roughly three times in almost three decades.

At this point, we’ve burned through too many toasters to count. Out went the Braun, in came whatever brand the closest Shopko shelves happened to be stocking when we couldn’t wait another moment to reclaim our relied-upon breakfast toast. (If the toaster cost $15 or under, better yet.)

Coffeemakers have been equally faithless, but nevertheless vital for the day-to-day survival of this once starry-eyed young couple who morphed into the parents of three active children. We’ve downgraded over time, even hitting the dregs of Mr. Coffee, but there’s no time to waste hunting for the perfect brewing system (or grinding one’s own coffee beans–ah, there sits that Braun grinder!) when the morning caffeine fix must be met, and fast.

Who needs a Kitchen Aid stand mixer when a hand-held Proctor Silex (or better yet, a wooden spoon) will do just as well to stir up a batch of brownies your 13-year-old informs you at 7 a.m. she needs to take to school for a homeroom meeting by 7:48 a.m.?

And yet…an ancient GE canister vacuum that was initially purchased by my maternal grandparents (who went to their heavenly rewards in 1968, God rest their souls) shortly after rural electrification became a “thing” is still effectively sucking up dust at my mother’s house.

Similarly, my late mother-in-law’s circa 1950 Hoover upright vacuum is going strong in our home. And two non-electric kitchen tools dating to about 1900–a heavy metal meat grinder and a potato ricer she “can’t live without”–remain reliable fixtures in my mother’s kitchen.

They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Years ago we made peace with less than top-of-the-line appliances, having discovered this truth: as long as there’s steaming coffee and crunchy toast to be had, whatever the source, wedded bliss is still within reach.


1 Response

  1. Carol Cowan

    This brought back a lot of memories, Jane! Still have a few things kicking around that have been passed along over the years! Our “good ” china is in boxes in the basement- can’t remember the last time it was used! Thanks for a fun read!

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