Nanny would be proud

My mother's mother was something. A child of the 19th Century, a Transylvanian sweetheart, she gave birth to eight children, six of whom survived. She raised them all in a tiny, and I do mean tiny, house on the east side of Newark during the Great Depression.

When we would visit Nanny with our parents on Sunday in the late '50s and early '60s, she'd always slip us kids each a dollar when we were leaving. Our parents would object, but she would insist.

One of the many wonders of Nanny's little kitchen was her pencils. She'd sharpen them down until there was hardly anything left to them but the lead. Waste not, want not.

Years later, after I had stopped visiting Nanny, I worked at a newspaper. Pencils were a big thing there. Boxes and boxes of them. Heavy black lead, never any harder than no. 2, and most of the time it felt like no. 1. We typed and wrote on really cheap paper, which they shot around the building through pneumatic tubes in little plastic carriers. High tech for those days.

So it's no surprise that here I am, an old guy, and I still use pencils. I buy them as souvenirs at tourist spots, and I salvage old ones that are being thrown away at second-hand places. Estate sales are good for old pencils. And don't tell my boss, but I even filch some of the used ones that sit in the supply closet at work once in a while. Nobody wants some fired guy's old pencils, but I'll take them.

And although I throw them out way earlier than Nanny did, I do grind them down quite a ways before giving up on them.

Here's to everybody I've ever shared one with. Especially Nanny.