Digging into the clay soil with my garden trowel, ever so sweaty last Sunday afternoon, I pondered the concept of permanence. My two tomato plants needed bigger pots on the patio, so I went on the rampage creating space "out back".
The condo "backyard" is about 7' x 11', with maybe thirty-five square feet of dirt, and the rest concrete. When we moved in as renters, I stuck some red canna bulbs, myrtle groundcover, ivy, and wandering purple stuff into the mud around the four silly shrubs. We were "just renting," aka "temporary," but I couldn't live with the mud and dead leaves out by the patio slab. A mismatched collection of pots holding miniature roses, dusty miller, and eighty-eight cent mums and Home Depot lantana gradually encroached onto the patio slab in the years since. When you feel temporary, you don't plant things in the real ground.
"Permanent" in the early Sixties meant something briefly stinging, drippy, and smelly "given" to you by your mom to cause your hair to break off and frizz for several weeks. I received the occasional Tonette permanent wave on weekend afternoons while sitting on the tall kitchen stool watching roller derby, Mr. Wizard, Jon Gnagy drawing lessons, and Green Bay Packers games on the small black and white t.v.
"Permanent press" was an advertising phrase of the early Sixties. Women's sportswear maker Joseph Koret developed the permanent-crease process in the late Fifties. Fabrics were coated with a resin solution and baked to set a crease. Koret used this marketing phrase to proclaim the emancipation of homemakers from their ironing boards. My mom sewed our clothes, so they were not "permanent pressed". She spent two or three hours every week ironing clothes for our family of five.
Digging and sweating, my tomatoes are in the big pots, and my herbs are replanted together in a dish-shaped pot. How will the mums, dusty miller, and lantana cope with being plunked into the seriously unimproved soil around the patio?
Kelly Girls temporary services were advertised on 1960's KFOR radio. It's strange to consider the heavy load of baggage packed into the words "Kelly Girl". My gosh! Bad enough that a woman wouldn't have the time to iron her family's clothing, she might have to get a job, but not a real job, just a temporary staffing job popping in and out of offices to do typing, and having to buy permanent press clothes and nylons! Sheez! This was the sort of woman who might phone in an order to Chicken Delight, the only delivery food in town. "Don't cook tonight! Call Chicken Delight!"
In college I used Permanent Pigments paints. The Permanent Pigments Company developed the first water-based acrylic gesso in 1955, and called it Liquitex. Like permanent-press store-bought garments and temp service stenos, acrylic paints weren't considered the proper way to do things!
In Gail Butt's composition and watercolor classes we used the combination of cadmium red #2, cobalt blue, and permanent green light to solve many creations. This green paint is semi-transparent due to it's recipe of phthalo green and hansa yellow.
I've never given myself a permanent green traffic light. But I've replanted the mums into the unimproved dirt of my "out back". It's been six years since I became an owner instead of a renter, but I still feel temporary. Maybe the experience of divorce makes my inner understanding of permanent vs. temporary less clearcut.
© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder