The final assignment of the, now defunct,South Strand Writing Group was a visual prompt:
My dad spent his formative years during the Great Depression. One of his most vivid memories was of one particular Christmas that his only presents were an apple and an orange. Best Christmas he ever had.
As a result of his experiences in living in abject poverty, he was always hesitant to throw away anything that had even a remote chance of being reused. Recycling is not a novel concept.
Under our kitchen sink were Maxwell House coffee cans and Mason jars filled with hardware items: nuts, bolts, screws, washers, nails, cotter pins, etc. I do not remember where these components originally came from. Dad must have once participated in some great demolition project to acquire all those bits and bobs. At least that is what I thought until I found out that nearly all homes have a similar stockpile of hardware odds and ends. Except mine.
My dad was quite a handyman and could fix anything. He even learned to repair televisions, back before televisions were disposable. Ours broke and he took it to a repair shop and upon hearing how much the guy wanted to do little more than change out a vacuum tube, dad came home, studied the schematic diagram, and isolated the problem. It came so easy to him that he enrolled in a correspondence course and became a part-time television repairman. Because he was fair, he soon had more customers than he could handle. As a young boy, I often accompanied him in his workshop, "helping" him fix televisions and other electronic devices. I learned to replace tubes, use a voltmeter, oscilloscope, and other test equipment. I even learned the electronic color codes, which I remember to this day: black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, gray, and white. I also learned that an unplugged television still carries enough voltage to knock a person across the room. I only needed one such lesson to secure that fact in my memory banks forever.
Whenever dad had a project that required a nut, bolt, screw, washer, nail, cotter pin, etc., he would drag out the appropriate can or jar. They were not labeled, but he knew which container held the type of hardware that he needed for the particular job. Much to my mother's chagrin, we would dump the contents of the receptacle on her kitchen table and sort through the contents looking for just the right part.
As a young boy, I really enjoyed this activity, as I loved to put washers onto bolts an thread nuts onto them. I would sometimes slide several washers and thread several nuts on to one long bolt. My dad didn't particularly like having to unthread several nuts from a bolt, but he never discouraged my interest in mechanics or creativity.
I could amuse myself for hours assembling combinations of assorted hardware into abstract metal architecture. Sadly, my fine motor skills and capacity for spatial thought never progressed much beyond that of a child.