Rendered Fat Content


Hercules Seghers: Enclosed Valley (c. 1623–30)

" … I love my overalls …"

Years ago, when my son was barely one year old, my first wife and I bought our first house. It wasn't much. Two bedrooms featuring peeling wallpaper, worn paint, and a basement given over to cobwebs and mouse poop, but we set about fixing it up, though neither of us considered ourselves qualified. The interest rate on the mortgage was fifteen and a half percent, the best we could bargain for under Reagan's grand prosperity strategy, which left us feeling as if we'd landed in the middle of The Great Depression. The old guy we'd bought the place from left a weary pair of overalls on a basement shelf. I washed them up and tried them on, never having previously had the pleasure, and took to wearing them as I labored around the place. As often happens for me, that clothing imparted a new identity to me. I became 'Pa' whenever I wore then, a character loosely based upon an actor in a popular television series at that time, The Waltons.

I guess I needed a role model and imprinted upon him.
I was reminded of that time yesterday morning when The Muse invited me to go march in the Fair parade with her. I instead donned my overalls, not those original ones which I long ago wore to threads, but my new ones I bought for myself after we reinhabited The Villa last year, signaling that I would not be accompanying her to the parade. We'd been gone for eight days followed by several days when the heat was too intense. That morning was the first in two weeks when I might catch up on my errant lawn mowing. I dropped her off near the parade's starting point and returned home to labor in sublime, sacred isolation.

That interaction reminded me of that time back in that first house, when my first wife insisted upon taking the kids to church on Sunday Mornings. Pa Walton never attended church, very much like my mother, who only rarely consented to attend. Pa contended that he had work to accomplish, Sunday or no, and so he could not see the purpose of going. He accepted, like I had, his wife's desire to raise their kids in the church, but he, himself, never accompanied them. It was not like he headed for the pool hall once his family departed. He worked his sawmill and completed the kind of work only a solitary man can ever accomplish, work unencumbered by company. I'd do the same, mowing lawn or scraping walls, work best undertaken without an audience.

Pa Walton was by all accounts a decent man. He just never went to church. I, too, intended to be decent, but I never once consented to attend that church my first wife joined. I explained that I wasn't much of a joiner, but I think it was more or different from that for me. I could not see myself sitting on a pew when there was work to do. In this modern world, Sunday is not a day of rest. It's a day of recreation. The only day in the whole damned week when obligation doesn't loom large enough to overwhelm, a day for discretionary engagement. I would most often choose to garden while my family attended church. Pa Walton worked his sawmill. I swear that those overalls transplanted that personality into me, for I was never natively the sort to shirk even unwelcome duties like attending church.

I consider myself a deist. I found god in my garden. I never did find Jesus, but only because I could never make sense of that metaphor, (or was it an allegory?) The woman who tended our place in our recent absence recounted an encounter she had with our neighbor while we were gone. He asked her if I loved Jesus. Why he asked her that, I cannot say. I thought the question presumptuous, and had he asked me, I would have asked in response what in the heck he'd just asked, what he meant by that. I wondered if it could be considered proper to just up and ask anyone what they love or don't. The asking seemed inappropriately intimate, different from idle over the fence chatter. He'd probably noticed that I didn't seem to attend church on Sunday mornings, something he and his wife never miss. I might have confided to him, had he asked, that I love my overalls because they made me the man I am today, quietly laboring alone come most Sunday mornings, Pa, then, later, Grumps.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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