When I was in my mother's basement last week, I happened to glance in the rafters and noticed a familiar sight. Nicely tucked away in the southwest corner, just above the gas meter, are about a dozen white ceramic electrical insulators. They have been there in storage, undisturbed, for at least forty years. They are hollow cylinders, about sixteen inches long and perhaps eight inches in diameter, There are grooves in two directions on the outside surface to hold a copper wire wound around it.
They were manufactured during World War Two and were intended for high powered electrical equipment. We happen to have them because my father worked for the firm that made them. In fact, he did the blueprints for them and was proud of the quality of the finished pieces. They were kept as souvenirs.
My father has died, my mother is aging. There will come a time in the not to distant future when we the children will have to close the home that was purchased new in 1949 and disperse the contents. Much is very easy, the usual accumulation of furniture, books, curtains etc, Some will not be quite so easy.
The insulators have no material value. They take up space. They might be classified as having 'industrial' beauty by some, but mostly, they are just things. They could simply be discarded.
But, they are the work of a man, a good man that was excellent at his craft. He supported a home with a wife and six children. My mother never had to go out to work. And, he did it with only a grammar school education.
So much of what we all produce is transient. It is often hard to look back and say "That was a well done job today." Who can remember what they did a week or a year ago. How many can be proud of it?
... and, how much of it will survive us?
I do have this much of an answer. Those insulators will survive, at least for one more generation. I will find a place for them. I wish to continue to honor the man that helped make them and to remind myself that that we should all maintain a benchmark.