Grandpa’s Flag Pole Ornament

When I was a child, my family visited Grandma and Grandpa in Cumberland, MD every summer. They lived in an interesting old house on McMullen Highway. I could go on for days about how wonderful it was to be there, but for now I’ll just tell one true story.

Grandpa had a flag pole in the front yard, and every morning he would raise the American Flag, and then take it down and fold it up nicely every day at dusk. I remember one year when I was about five or six I heard everyone outside in the yard laughing about something. Dad was shading his eyes and looking up, pointing at the top of the flag pole. Mom was cackling hysterically. I heard “isn’t that sacreligious?” among the giggles.

I went outside and looked up at Grandpa’s flag pole, expecting to see underpants in place of the flag, but it all looked normal to me. As usual, I saw his American Flag at the top of a white pole with a gold ball style topper. Mom wiped the tears from her eyes and told me the ball on the top was a toilet tank float. Storms the week berfore had knocked down the flag pole and the nice topper was missing. Instead of going to the hardware store to buy a new one, he rummaged around in his garage and found something he already had. I didn’t know what a toilet tank float was, so she took me inside the house to show me the floater inside the tank. Grandpa was always good for a laugh.

Now that I think about it… it just makes sense. This is just how my Grandpa lived every day of his life. He kept all of his screws and nails in empty pickle jars. The cinnamon candies he gave us came out of a re-purposed instant coffee jar. The quilt on his bed was hand made by Grandma, made with fabric cut from clothing that was no longer wearble. They had everything they needed, and lived comfortably on their tiny retirement income. I learned SO much from them about using what you have. They both died when I was a teen, but I think of them every time I pull a jar out of my cabinet to store something. I don’t have a flag pole in my yard, but if I did you can bet I’d have some re-purposed item as an ornament on top, just for Grandpa.