Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The value of small things


I packed a dollar store sewing kit on my own vacation to Maui last week.   Since I'm a light packer it was probably an unnecessary item but I did have the opportunity to use it on one occasion to sew ribbon ties to my straw hat or else lose it to the tropical breezes.

When I went to use the sewing kit this I discovered that in addition to some very small spools of thread, a tiny pair of scissors that didn't really cut anything, and a thimble,  was a flat container with what looked like 100 needles.  Why so many?  

It made me recall a story I read once, maybe as a child, about early American pioneers and how scarce some things were for them. Manufactured or metallic items had to be brought out from England or Europe, a three to six month sea voyage.  This particular story focussed on sewing needles.  The small New England settlement of perhaps a dozen or two families had only one needle.   An arrangement was made  among the settlers  that each would would have the use of the needle for three weeks.

All of a family's mending, indeed all the the sewing of their clothing for the next year--remember there were no stores to purchase  from in the early pioneer days--had to be undertaken and completed during that time.  The main character, a girl of about ten to twelve years of age, was given the task of transporting the precious item from her family to the next.  

I don't remember the plot; perhaps she lost and then found the needle.   That would seem a likely story.   But the idea of one needle being so precious made an impression on me.   Today, it seems a hundred needles do not even equal a dollar in value but two hundred years ago, one was a treasure.

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