A Big Fan


In the front bedroom of the house my Grandmother owned from the time her husband was killed in Okinawa until her own death in 1998, there was a fan.

It was large window fan, stalwart like her, with a six inch rubber belt wound around two pulleys, the partnering of which turned the giant steel blades with such determination that it teased cool summer shade from the ancient maple near the patio, through the back porch and kitchen, into the living room, up and around the bend in the steps, and down the hallway where the bedrooms lined up and we all slept on July nights in Bethlehem.

Its reliable mechanics, like the inner workings of the steel mill across town, represented the ideals of good and right and worth a long-fought battle.

It was not the type of fan you sentenced to the dump because the cost to repair it was so much greater than the cost to buy a new one.

It was not the type of fan you tossed to the curb after a summer or two, like the gadgets in the seasonal aisle next to the display of ninety-nine cent American flags Made in China.

That fan was never lazy in its labor, never turned off from a hard day’s work, and never complained.

In return, we didn’t take it for granted, and gave thanks for it often. We weren’t divided about its value, never questioned its strength, nor its ability to hold up under the hottest conditions.

My Grandmother’s fan was the kind of machine that demanded your respect, quite frankly because it earned your respect.

Words ©2015, Jen Payne
IMAGE: Bethlehem Pennsylvania graveyard and steel mill, by Walker Evans

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