It wasn't that he didn't like nice things, he just detested frivolity. He didn't believe in waste of any sort. If something could be fixed, it wasn't really broken now was it? You could get six thousand miles out of a three thousand mile oil change. And with a couple of stumps and two-by-eights, you could change the oil yourself. There was always one more squeeze in the toothpaste tube. If you added a little water to the ketchup, shook it, and turned it upside-down, you could always get that last little bit out. Want squeeze mustard? Buy it in the big cheap jars and refill the squeeze bottle. Frozen concentrate was the only way to buy orange juice. Till I was fifteen, I thought those orange trees in the commercials were a myth.
Processed cheese food tastes just like the real stuff, and it melts just as well. Hot dogs, all-beef dogs, beef with chicken dogs … it's all the same. Which one's buy-one-get-one-free this week? Generic prescriptions, generic vitamins … they got the same stuff in them don't they?
From the earliest age I can remember, all of this was pounded into my malleable little mind on a daily basis. I wore my shoes and clothes until they no longer fit. Fashion was a luxury, holes and tears could be mended. When we went to a family restaurant, I always ordered based on price. I learned to love hamburger steak with fries. Frugality had become as much a part of my soul as it was my dad's. I actually chose to do these things.
I wanted to eat the crumbs out of the bottom of the cheapo potato chip bag. I chose to lick the cream off the oatmeal creme pie wrapper. When the pudding recipe called for two cups cold milk, I added another quarter cup on purpose to stretch it out. It was my choice and my choice alone to save all my ketchup packets from McDonalds to use at home. Mustard too. Sweet and sour chicken nugget sauce, yum.
I slowly became my father's son. From age seventeen on, I cut my own hair. I never bought bottled water, why when it’s free from the tap? Salvage stores became my second home. I rejected the idea of almost anything name-brand simply on the principle they wasted too much money advertising to become a name-brand. I relished in the recycling movement, nothing went to waste in my house. Waste was a four letter word with a wasted letter added.
In this disposable society that exists today, my Dad and I are more than justified in our ways. Waste and frivolity are America's biggest hush-hush problems. Gas guzzling SUVs. Disposable cameras. Pet birthday parties. Single-use contact lens. Need I say more?
My son may not grow up in the same world I did, but you can be sure I'll teach him to run the dishwasher only when it's full. His first car will be conservative and fuel efficient. And he will always, always respect the value of a dollar.