Whoever discovered that pipe cleaners are for kids as well as smokers deserves a Nobel prize as far as I’m concerned. To those two market segments, I would also add non-smoking seniors.

I hadn’t played with the wiry things for decades until I brought them to my mother’s. She was sleeping when I arrived, so M~, her aide, and I sat down at the kitchen table to see what we could do with them. M~, revealing previously unknown talents as a jewelry designer, began to craft a flower-like design that could double as a pin. (A more elaborate version appears in the photo below.)

In the dining room that night, three waitresses asked if M~ could make additional pins for them. (I told her that she could have a nice side business going for herself in the building if she ever wanted to diversify.)

I worked on a pair of fashion eyeglasses that my mother graciously modeled once she awoke.

When I visited the next week, the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, we decided that this second pair fits her personality better.

During that later visit, M~ and I made about 25 heart-shaped, pipe-cleaner stick-on pins that we distributed to residents and the waitstaff during dinner. My mother is wearing one of them in the picture above.

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