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Scissors, screwdrivers, and sex

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Geez. I still smell like I spent the night with an unwashed mechanic…oily and garage-like.

Stridently attacking my Five Lists 2022, which was the subject of my last post, recently I focused on number three question— “What was causing me anxiety?”

My instantaneous response, “too much stuff,” jumped off the page of my journal.

After a heated back and forth debate with myself, I vowed to reduce the inventory in my house—my possessions—before the first day of Spring.

At this point, after two weeks on the project, my home resembles a college dormitory with piles of rubbish scattered throughout the halls, on the beds, covering the furniture. One pile for Maria, one for the Salvation Army, one for the Assistance League, one for trash, one for my daughter’s consideration, one or two to give to a friend.

At one point, I turned to the tool sections. House, greenhouse, garage.

First to screwdrivers. When my husband died, I was giving away screwdrivers like hawkers pass out flyers on street corners in Manhattan. How many does a new widow need for God’s sakes, I asked myself and systematically gave Jack’s overabundance of screwdrivers from both the garage and the winery to our workers.

That was over five years ago when I lived rural. When I gathered all screwdrivers that somehow wormed their way into the urban house I live in now, I had sixteen. Five Phillips and eleven flat heads.

This does not include the mini-screwdrivers on my Swiss Army Knives - one, my grandfather's, one a gift from Gail.

Do screwdrivers multiply under cover of night?

After the 2022 Screwdriver purge, I now own three Phillips and three flats. One set upstairs, one downstairs, and one in the garage.


Assessing the scissors collection was more monumental and a slightly nostalgic surprise. Bear in mind that both my maternal grandmother and my mother were seamstresses. I have been around scissors my entire life. Many times, I have fantasized myself a dressmaker like the two of them. Not long enough on patience, unfortunately.

Mom’s shears live in the sewing box and occasionally are called upon to open a pocket on a new garment or trim threads from a favorite shaggy article of clothing.

Scissors aren’t called shears unless they measure eight inches or longer and have one finger hole larger than the other.

Remember this when you become a Jeopardy contestant.

Total - I own nineteen pairs of scissors, including my mother’s dressmaking shears. Yes, there are nineteen pair of all sizes (again, including two mini-scissors on the Swiss Army knives) and I do not intend to part with one.

Certainly not my grandmother’s three-and-a-half vintage Gingher Stork embroidery scissors, gold and silver, or my mom’s two sets of pinking shears, one of which was her mom’s, my patient and stern grandmother, Ethyl Maude Highberger. I can remember being fascinated by the little triangular shaped cuts made in the gabardine fabric spread on the dining room table as my mother inched her way slowly around the paper pattern pieces. Often, I picked up scraps to play dress-up with my dolls.

My grandmother, Ethyl, not Winnie, used to tell me “Pinking shears are a horse of a different color,” when she would demonstrate their use while babysitting my younger brother and me.

Only now did I learn that this vintage phrase means “another matter entirely.” The phrase comes from horse-trading. Some horses change color from youth to adulthood, so the trade registration often didn’t match the actual animal, causing confusion and sometimes accusations of foul play.

Actually, Shakespeare popularized the quip in Twelfth Night when the scheming Maria utters “horse of that colour”, meaning ‘the same thing.’

But I digress.

Another pair, nine-inch silver blade with a gold-plated handle, lives in my desk drawer. Occasionally I use these to trim a sheet of paper or open a package. They were in my father’s desk drawer, but I’m thinking they came from my maternal side, the Highberger clan—Huguenots who ended up in Germany.

This pair is very old S. Salm Scissors featuring Solingen Blades (love the alliteration) made in Germany. Could be from my maternal side of the family who were Huguenots who fled to Germany. I have learned that Solingen (Germany) was known in Northern Europe as the “City of the Blades,” and it remains the cutlery center of Germany to this day. Makes me want to track the origin of my pair of Salm Scissors and the ancestor who purchased them. How on earth could I do that, I wonder.

Displaying my collection to my surgeon friend not long ago, he perused the assortment, painstakingly opening and closing each set. Very familiar with blades of all kinds and their form and function, as he ran his fingers along the collection arranged on my dining room table, he offered, “You might want to lubricate each of these.”

“What do you mean? How? Where?”

“A little WD-40 here?” He answered in a combination smirk and questioning guy-kind-of response silently signaling “duh, everybody knows that.”

The next day, I spent hours oiling each pair of scissors. Opening and closing until there was no resistance. Then polishing the blades and the handles. Bottom line, scissors are very much part of my family’s history, and I will not be divesting my home of one single pair. Which, of course, simply means I must double up on the stemmed glass giveaway, the quilted hot pad handouts, or the multi-sized picture frame free-for-all.


There are still faint and unpleasant fumes emanating from my fingers and hands. I threw away the sponges and rags I had used in the scissor-oiling process which morphed into a gate hinge, garage door, and trash can lip lubrication.

My trash bin also smells of WD-40. It is a miracle-working agent which my father introduced me to all those years ago as a young college girl off on my own away from home. “If a door gets stuck…” he postured holding up the giant economy size blue can—neon yellow writing, red cap—of WD-40 with the strange squeeze and spray nozzle, “just a squirt.”

My father who got his beginnings as a roughneck on an oil rig brimming with tools and pumps was a huge fan of the lubricant developed several years before my college daze in a small lab in San Diego, California by Rocket Chemical Company. Dad’s once-a-month Saturday morning routine—squirt WD-40 on anything that squeaked. Garage door, gate hinges, lawnmower parts, the dog’s chain collar, the slide of my brother’s trombone, mom’s dangly earrings, his pliers. When he left me in Drane Hall at Texas Tech in Lubbock, (college football home of Patrick Mahones) he left a fully stocked small tool chest with the can of WD-40 inside.

Dad made me believe in WD-40.

Okay, now for the sex part.

There is none.

But I love alliteration, so the three s’s worked well—scissors, screwdrivers, and sex.

Plus, I figured it was a surefire way to encourage readership.



Pretty funny, Marilyn. What a history you had. And I was waiting for the sex part. Have fun at lunch and I hope to see you for a minute this afternoon. Love Jan. By the way, mechanics no longer use WD-40. I’ll find the name but it’s some thing about silicone which is much better than the old WD-40. But you continue to believe that if you like.

Terrific!! Loved it! Didn’t miss the sex at all!!😊❤️John and Jeanine

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5 commenti

26 gen 2022

Great minds (or those of people of a 'certain age') run in the same direction, i.e. attacking the clutter and redundancy in our homes. I'm agonizing over who/what might be interested in accepting a donation of part of my abundant library. In fact, I just wrote an email to the journalism division chair at SMU asking if he might set up a nook for my some 200 books on journalism, writing, writers, media etc. Unfortunately, printed books have become undervalued in the digital age. I also have a huge collection of political books I would love to find a home for, in time. But we get so attached to our "things" it's like chopping off an arm or leg and…

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Do all widows get their husband's tool boxes? I had Tom Reeves' toolbox until just a few years ago, but I did take this and that out of it.

Enjoyed this post! Wanted to make puns about how sharp you are and say something about the danger of scissors, screwdrivers, and sex. Then I remembered that you wrote about that tool you got at Ace Hardware that you liked so much--remembered: a box cutter.

I'm trying to spark a little joy around my apartment, too, by lightening the load, but haven't found a lot of energy for it yet. You'll inspire me; you always do.

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20 gen 2022

I’m keeping all my zillions of scissors and screwdrivers. They all manage to hide when I am looking got them

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Oh what fun Marilyn. Gotta find that Salm Scissor Saga for certain.. ( is there life after alliterations?) I love all your stories , your posted photos are an extra treat.

I had forgotten all about the stork embroidery scissors, aren't they darling !! Now I wonder what ever happened to my Mom's.

Cheers my dear, see you next time.

Love, Katie

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20 gen 2022

I love this, Marilyn, especially how you braided all the family history into the story and of course the background of WD-40 (who knew?), a staple in my house, too.

On another note, when my husband died almost nine years ago, I gave away pens and more pens and pads of paper, but I still have a tool box somewhere.

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