Lovin’ My Kirby Vacuum
After stripping the Yuletide adornment from my old Christmas tree, I dragged it to the curb, knowing the job was not yet done.
Faced with layers of pine needles scattered about, I considered using my husband’s beloved Dyson. The vacuum repair guy swears it is the best Dyson model ever made.
The miniature wind tunnel housed in the clear plastic mini can, however, had one problem. Layered with inner filters, I didn’t want to risk clogging her up only to have another project: taking her apart, finding an offending object and putting her back together.
Instead, I sought out grandma’s old Kirby vacuum. Having celebrating a 50th birthday a few years ago, Kirby is older than me. She was built in strong industrial Cleveland when a college education was unnecessary for family supporting work.
Made of thick steel with an easy-to-replace but strong fabric bag, Kirby is not as sensitive as the plastic new age vacuums. Like my hometown of Cleveland, she is tough, solid and not pretentious.
My foot pressed down on the floor adjuster, one solid metal click at a time. Unlike the Dyson, she does not have to kiss the floor to do her job. She’s heavier than the Dyson, and I might not need barbels if I used her more.
As I vacuumed, I recalled Kirby’s constant presence in my life, crawling after her as mom navigated it through the living room, pushing her as I grew up, watching grandma maneuver her with seasoned skill…. Kirby has rarely known a man’s touch.
After my nostalgia trip was over, I carefully emptied the pine needles and dust unto an open newspaper. After folding up the debris, I placed the package in my compost bin. I always love it when being green is really just doing things the old-fashioned way!
I have accomplished enough in my career that I am happy
to support my clients’ achievements.
Grandpa purchased Kirby for about $1,000. That remains a lot of dough for a vacuum cleaner, but it was a ton for a AAA insurance salesman in the 1960s. Given that his great granddaughters still use her, it was a fabulous long-term investment. Kirby can now be found on E-bay for about $25 to $75. But that is not the fate of grandma’s vacuum.
Her days are spent resting comfortably in my sewing room with my other grandmother’s Viking sewing machine. Also built in Cleveland, Viking set my other grandfather back $500 in early 1950s, but like Kirby, she is a workhorse built to last into future generations.
Viking is also from a bygone time when sewing was a necessity and not a hobby. She’s near my great grandmother’s treadle machine. Patented in 1886, she was the blue ribbon winner at the Belmont County Ohio Fair. She works without electricity. Talk about being green!
There is something transcending about using well-built, solid metal machines that were once the tools of the mothers who came before me. But unfortunately, I have little time to sew. Meeting real-time demands with disposable technology beckons me away from the past and requires me to adapt to an ever-changing future.
I’m the first person in the family to earn a college degree and the first woman to have a professional career. For my grandmothers, being a wife and mother – which remains a full-time-plus-job – was their purpose. Their greatest achievements were watching their children’s accomplishments, supporting their husbands and being the chief conductor of household affairs.
Like the matrons before me, I now take more joy in the accomplishments of my children than my own. My hard-earned career achievements do not matter to me anymore. In my office, I moved all my diplomas, awards and articles that have been written about me over the years and now proudly display the work of my young budding artists.
I am learning that the less my life is about me and the more it is about others, the happier I am. This applies to my clients as well. I have accomplished enough in my career that I am happy enough to support my clients’ achievements. After publishing more than 300 articles in my name, I am happy to write under someone else’s.
As far as Kirby, I am not the only one who appreciates her. Much to my delight, I found another fan of the Kirby Dual Sanitronic 50 Vacuum Cleaner. You can watch her at work at
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