Book of coupons

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has been rummaging through decades of accumulated stuff and has found an old gift that may still be giving.

(Lange) I’ve been looking for an old photograph that I know I’ve got somewhere. This has meant sorting through fifty years of stuff. An the other day, buried in a folder full of dead passports, love letters, and a draft notice, I came across a little homemade booklet. Its title is Happy “A” Day, which means it was an anniversary present. Its cover is of faded green construction paper, stitched to the pages inside with a sewing machine. The pages themselves are full of tiny coupons that can be torn out along perforated lines made by the same sewing machine.

The hand-lettered coupons were redeemable for various domestic services. I say “were” because our lives have changed a lot since that distant anniversary, and I can’t imagine redeeming them now. “Cherry pie,” says one; another, “three ironed shirts.” There were five coupons for Coleman stove cleaning. Shoe shines, back rubs, car washing, lawn mowing, a meal in my den. This woman clearly had her finger on the pulse of my personality. There are breakfast-in-bed coupons (never redeemed), Brillo shines for my camping pots and pans, and three tickets for five minutes of silence in the middle of an argument.

But the acme of all these offers were three tickets for “A Week of Hotdogs Fixed, Seven Different Ways.” I had lived alone for a few years, and I had a favorite supper. In a greased baking pan, I spread a can of baked beans. On top of them I spread bacon, sliced ham, or natural-skin hot dogs. I poured a little bourbon over it and let it soak in. Then I either sprinkled brown sugar or spread Swiss cheese over the whole concoction and baked it till it sizzled. With a side of potato salad or cole slaw, it was ambrosial. I must have mentioned it nostalgically a few times too many.

I handed in a coupon. She made hot dogs stuffed with cheese, hot dogs with chili sauce. Pigs-in-a-blanket with sourdough bread, and cheese and hot dogs wrapped in bacon. She folded hot dogs into an omelet with cheese and onions — oh, my! But the butcher must have thought we’d lost our minds

Well, all those things come to an end; and with kids to tend, she never was able to put in thirty hours of clearing brush. But just now, as I paused in my search for that elusive photograph and read over the coupons to mend pockets, take the trash to the dump, and bake a banana cream pie, I came across one last unredeemed ticket for a week of hot dogs. Do I dare? Is that old offer still good? I’ll bet it is; but it doesn’t matter. The real gift has been all these years shared with the person who gave it it in the first place.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire.

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