There is something comforting about familiar things. They keep us from feeling lost in an ever-changing world. We see the same curtains and coffee maker when we wake up. We look for the same mailman day after day, and step on the same cracks in the sidewalk that have been there forever. We love these things not because we are materialistic, but because we are nurtured by a sameness that does not shock the senses.

When I take a pair of shoes to the shoe repairman I know I’ll be seeing them again, restored to a new wholeness.  The dining table where we eat is the same one my husband made before we had kids, and before they marred the finish with their little forks and cookie cutters.  And I keep rehabbing my 1979 Singer sewing machine, the one I used to sew size-two dresses and coveralls and now use to make toys for my grandson.

Familiar things help keep our stress level low. Studies show kids who move a lot don’t do as well in school as kids whose families stay put. No wonder - the higher the stress level, the lower the cognitive functioning (check out Born for Love by Dr. Bruce Perry for more on the subject).

Recently my cell phone had a jammed button. In spite of the fact that it was brand new, I couldn’t close the darned thing. So I filed a claim and got another phone. Not that I was happy with that one, either: the camera was perpetually on “standby,” causing me to inadvertently take pictures of my thigh.

I ended up with yet another phone, all the time wishing some bright voice at the customer service call center would say, “Sure, lady, we’ll fix your phone for you.”

My father-in-law was a fixer. He believed in repairing anything that was worth salvaging and giving it a second chance: toasters, irons, hair dryers, washing machines.  He’d take the broken item out to his garage and poke around in his white coveralls, his pencil-thin frame bending over his workbench. After a few hours he’d come back in the house victorious, grinning from ear to ear. One more item saved from the land fill.

I’m not a pack-rat or a hoarder. My house isn’t filled with empty yogurt cups and used tissues. But I find repairing a broken bracelet or refinishing a desk to be wildly gratifying.  Maybe it’s because I fear death.  (Any Moonstruck fans out there?)

Like most women, I love shopping for new clothes and visiting exciting new places. But I love the familiar more. it’s only at home that my nerves truly untangle. And as I breathe in the air of my memories, I can relax. FFG

Visit http://www.familyfieldguide/ for more family features, PLUS, the latest Chinese Boat Wisdom by Jenny Kung: More from the Typhoon Kitchen - A Reason to Eat.



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