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Mittens on a String
by Amy Kenneley

"Going Cordless" had a different meaning when I was growing up.

"Please, please, Mom-I promise I won't lose my mittens. Just don't make me wear them on that string to school, pleaseplease!"

Such was the begging employed to make Mom relent. Reluctantly, she did. She fished out the sewing shears and cut the cord of crocheted wool that attached one mitten to the other. The cord ran through one sleeve and across the back of my winter jacket and down through the other sleeve. Any sensible parent knew that mittens would be lost.

Symbolically, I felt she had also cut the cord on my childhood, too. Free at last!

"Just remember," she looked at me with a warning gaze, "If you lose them, no more mittens for the winter. I can't afford to buy tons of mittens for little girls who are careless."

Tons of Mittens

With multitude of promises I assured her that she would never have to worry-not that she would buy tons of mittens-ever. Or that she had tons of little girls to mitten-equip, either. Just me.

You know how the story ends, don't you? It took about 1 ½ days before I lost a mitten. It could have fallen, all wet and soggy, out of my snow suit pocket onto the cloakroom floor and been kicked into a corner by a pair of five- buckle Arctic galoshes.

Or it could have been left behind on the school radiator that hissed with its silver-painted responsibility of drying woolen mittens between lunch and recess. One-mittened, I slunk home.

I was able to hide the fact that the mitten was gone, keeping one bare hand in my pocket as we boarded the Hough Avenue bus that would take us downtown. I used my mittened one to hold on to the seat handles and to Mom's hand as we left the bus to windowshop at all the well-remembered stores that are now no more: May's, Higbee's, Halle's.

That ruse worked for about another week. Even though I was extremely careful, the other went missing, too. Now it was really cold. Ice pellets stung the windows of our apartment. So cold that things of metal stuck to warm, human hands on contact-garbage can lids and school door handles.

The Mitten Hunt

Couldn't fool Mom, though. "Did you ask at the lost-and-found in the principal's office?" she inquired. I nodded that I had and no luck.

"Did you look along the sidewalk on your way home from school?" she added. I nodded that I had and again, no luck.

"Did you check every drawer and closet?" I nodded that I had and no luck three times. (Actually, looking in our one closet and into my small dresser of tiny drawers was" make busy" work as far as I was concerned. There weren't a "ton" of things to get lost in those).

After exhausting her suggestions, she sighed heavily and conceded that all that could be done had been done. They were gone and that was that. Did I get some more mittens, you may ask? Of course not! No more mittens until they went on sale again in spring.

Youngsters will wonder what the big fuss was about: So, a pair of mittens. What's the big deal? Buy another pair!

But there wasn't a lot of money to spare.

Then use the credit card. Pay later.

Sorry, no credit cards then. Cash. You know, that green stuff, and coins?

Even if the Good Mitten Fairy had appeared one night and placed a brand new pair of mittens under my pillow, I think Mom would have taken them and put them away for next winter.

How heartless and cruel.

No, she was teaching me a lesson. One I could probably only learn by having cold, chapped hands until the end of the long winter. Next time I looked around the cloakroom, I noticed there were lots of empty places where winter boots should be. I hadn't noticed ---before I lost my mittens.

Hard Lessons

The lesson? Pick any one. You've heard them all:

  • Money doesn't grow on trees.
  • Make over, make do or do without.
  • You only appreciate what you don't have.
  • There is always someone worse off than you.

As I checked out of the local library today, I noticed coats and jackets, hats, scarves, shoes, bookbags-even a musical instrument in a case-all waiting to be claimed. Past experience proves that most of those items will never be claimed, and will eventually be sent to charity.

Driving through our community, pairs of tennis shoes are festooning the wires overhead, tossed by jokers. A nice leather jacket and a lovely raincoat were hanging at the beauty shop where I had my hair cut. "Is someone coming for those?" I asked the beautician. "After a month we give them to charity" she replied.

Lost and Never Found

It leads me to wonder: why aren't these items claimed? Do we have so much that we don't even notice when something-the shirt off our back-is missing? Is it that easy to "just get another one?" and if we do, do we use plastic as our financial pacifier?

We -collectively-have been labeled the "Throwaway Society" but I sometimes wonder if there is a segment of this society - a special grouping, perhaps-who just can't seem to hang on to their possessions. Could they be called the "Lost and Found Group?"

Or perhaps more to the point: The Lost-and-Never Found Because We Don't Care" Group. Or perhaps there is some cosmic gravitational pull that sucks all the mishandled tennis shoes, bookbags, jackets, coins, wallets, identification cards, car keys….and mittens, of course, into a Never Never Land of Archeological Potential. I wonder.

But about my cold hands-Mother's ingenuity and kindness kept me from losing my fingers to frostbite. She suggested that Grandpa lend me a pair of his woolen socks to use for my cold hands.

So he did, and I DID learn a lesson…actually two. The second one was---socks are great for making snowballs!

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