Marianne Fons, Fashioner of Items.

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An actual toothbrush? Who needs it! Photo: Jonas Bergsten.
An actual toothbrush? Who needs it! Photo: Jonas Bergsten.

After thousands upon thousands of miles, innumerable flights, check-in counters, trains, cars, and so much shoe leather, my luggage has officially died.

My beloved silver Zero Halliburton suitcase used to have three different handles: the pulley-uppy retractable one, the grippy handle on top, and a similar grippy handle on the side. These handles were, as one might agree, useful for moving the piece of luggage through space. The pulley-uppy handle snapped off months ago. I would’ve gotten it fixed but I have this habit of needing my suitcase every other day. It wasn’t too bad; I could grip the top handle and wheel the thing along with not too much notice. I had to stoop slightly to the side but I almost looked cool with that little lean, like I was all, “Whatever. Planes.”

Well, the top handle broke off today at Midway. It’s over. My luggage is suddenly a horrible, heavy box. If that last handle snaps I will be forced to carry my suitcase like a baby, which is the exact opposite of what a piece of luggage is supposed to do for a person. The last handle — the one on the side — is what I’ve been using, which means I look like the worst casting decision in history for a production of Death of a Salesman. We don’t know what is good and what is bad, but come on.

When I told my mom that my luggage had given up on life, that the handles were off, she chirped, “Well, I could fashion you a handle.” We laughed, because how awful a fashioned luggage handle would be. Duct tape? Duct tape wrapped ’round and ’round the luggage when it was closed and twisted into some hideous, gnarled, sticky tape-handle? The thing is, my mother would not only figure out how to fashion a handle on a piece of luggage, she’d make it look pretty good and insist that the sticky side of the tape was all tucked in so you wouldn’t get sticky on your hand.

“It’s surprising I don’t like camping,” she said. “I loved The Swiss Family Robinson. They always had to make things out of what they had. They had to fashion things. I love fashioning things!” I said I knew it and I admired the quality in her. “Mom, you could fashion a hat out of a cinnamon stick,” I said, and it’s true.

“Remember when Jack was at the cottage and he had forgotten his toothbrush?” Mom said. “I told him, ‘Jack, I’ll just fashion you one!'” We all thought that was pretty hilarious at the time, but it wasn’t a serious offer; we keep extra toothbrushes at the lake house. But tonight, Mom and I tried to think how one might actually fashion a toothbrush.

“You could cut up a sponge!” I cried. “For the scrubby part!” I thought this was a rather inspired place to start.

“Yes, that’s it,” my mother said, miles ahead of me. “And I’d take dental floss or twine and wrap it around the sponge square so that you’d have nubbies, you know, like bristles. And then I’d get some drinking straws — three of them, for extra support — and I’d wind those together, too, for the handle. Then wind the sponge onto it and there you go: a fashioned toothbrush!”

My broken-down, put-er-out-to-pasture suitcase might be useful for something, but I don’t know what. A planter? A swimming pool for kittens? Does that mean I would be fashioning a planter? Fashioning a kitten swimming pool?

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