Friday, November 10, 2017

Junk Man

For the past few months, every Saturday, my son and I visit the Re-Store. It started when I was painting the unfinished basement. The Re-Store has all sorts of discounted paint and supplies and each Saturday I’d buy a gallon and go to work. Neither did I know that my kid would enjoy it so much, that he’d find the restore to be better than the toystore.

Now, they know my kid by name.

He sorts through the bins of junk, standing on his tippy toes, frowning with concentration as he searches for that extra special…something. A door hinge, an old light switch, electrical outlets, a few weeks ago we found a softball batter’s helmet. When something catches his eye he holds it up for the whole store to see. I have him take it to the front counter and haggle over a price. Usually something for a buck or two. It makes his day.

He has a name for everything. A piece of plumbing tube becomes a swatcher, a door stopper is a ploomer. His dresser is littered with finds—screws, nuts and bolts, springs. You can imagine just how thrilled his mom is about it. But most of the junk ends up in the basement, where we’ve cleaned out and set up his clubhouse under the stairs. He calls it his junk store, and offers to sell things back to me (at a hefty markup price).

We build things together, things that have no obvious use but—cue Hallmark music—are measured in the value we spent building them. We’ve built ladders out of pallets, birdhouses out of scraps of trim. We’ve built boxes out of decking planks and constructed ships out of cardboard boxes. Every secret agent needs his gadgets--even if they happen to be shelving brackets.

When I was his age I played with sticks and dug holes and played out fantasies. It's part of learning, creating, or whatever else makes me sound like someone with a firm grasp on child development. Whatever, he's inventing things in his head. He’s commanding spaceships comprised of rubber bands, oven knobs, and calculators. I love how he finds the most common gadgets, or jaggets, as he calls them, so fascinating.

It's fascinating to watch.