Sunday, November 23

The recycling-bin lady

When my grandma moved out of the home she raised her six children in and into an apartment for the 55+ age group, she had a lot of downsizing to do. She donated many of her clothes, years worth of kitchen supplies, and even her beloved sewing machine. Some of her children took old furniture and helped her move in. An organizational fiend, she put labels on everything and categorized all her possessions. It drove my own disorganized mother nuts, but it was certainly an admirable trait for a woman who pretty much single-handedly raised five boys and a girl all in very close age ranges. A needed trait, you might say.

So when my grandma arrived at her new place and set out her (labeled) recycling bin next to her trash can, she was astonished to discover her apartment complex--which had more than 100 units--didn't have recycling. "No recycling!" she exclaimed to my mother over the phone. "We'll see about that!" To a woman who weathered through the Great Depression, who handed out labeled cups at family reunions and instructed all of her grandchildren to use just one cup the whole week, who saved food scraps to pour into soups and stews ... to this woman who reused all of her aluminum foil until it crumbled apart in your hand, who scrimped and saved, who sewed and mended day and night, who made all of her children's clothes by hand--she could not comprehend the idea of not recycling. And she did something about it.

Circulating a petition among all of her new neighbors, my grandma garnered enough signatures to raise management's eyebrows and cave in. In her mid-80s, she still had the power to persuade and the will to act on her values and beliefs. Grandma became known as the recycling-bin lady.

My grandma died Thursday morning at a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. She was 87 years old. And today, I walked by a full recycling bin in the lobby of her apartment building.

13 comments:

Green Bean said...

What a legacy! What an inspiration for you. Thank you for sharing her stamina and success with us. It sounds like she had a life well lived and isn't that what all of us hope for.

Momma Val said...

Yeah Grandma! This sooo reminds me of my grandmothers and grandfathers and great aunts and uncles, the way that that generation was so non-wasting and always fixing and mending everything. It drives me nuts that most people nowadays aren't like this. My mother and her sisters are a lot like this too. So cool!

BerryBird said...

It sounds like your grandma was a strong and principled woman. How nice to see that full recycling bin in her building, and know it was her passion that made it possible.

citizen of the world said...

Wow, that one letf me with a lump in my throat. Impressive woman. I'm sorry for your loss and thankful for you that you had her in your life.

Stacy said...

Sorry for your loss - she was no doubt an amazing woman.

BlackenedBoy said...

I'm sorry for your loss, but it does sound as if your grandmother lived a full, productive, and interesting life.

I think that the full recycling bin was a very fitting way to end this post; her efforts brought tangible changes into the world, one of them in the form of a recycling container that wouldn't have been there without her.

It sounds as if you've inherited a bit of her waste consciousness.

Nicole said...

I have to say that this lovely post brought tears to my eyes. What a woman!!!

Nadine said...

I'm with Nicole on this one. Very touching! I am sorry for your loss.

Mon (Global Homestead) said...

I'm sorry for your loss. She sounds super amazing.

I would have loved her as a grandma, and kinda see myself being a similar type of gran - not taking any shit.lol Your gran sounds like she took life by the horns.

That was a great tribute to her.

organicneedle said...

I'm sorry for your loss. What a gift to have had such an influence in your life. My grandparents also lived with a similar mindset and I truly treasure my memories of all their frugal quirkiness.+

VioletSky said...

Oh. I came by for a look see and was expecting a nicely wrapped up, happy ending. Well, it was a wrapped up ending. Sorry for your loss. Beautifully written.

Stevyn Colgan said...

The cycle of life and death ... it's the ultimate recycling I guess. She sounds like a grand old lady. You're lucky to have had her around. x

fullfreezer said...

Sorry for your loss. She sounds like quite an amazing woman. You are so lucky to have had someone like her in your life.