It's not about the house.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Brown Bread

When I cleaned out the cabinets a couple weeks ago, I found a toaster. A typical, shiny, metal-with-black-sides, two-slot toaster. I’d forgotten all about it, but it was ours maybe five years ago, before we got the white one with just one BIG slot, that actually holds slices of things heartier than Wonder Bread.

When we got the big fat white one all those years ago, Johnny insisted that we keep the old one. Johnny, in case you hadn’t noticed, never throws anything away. He thought maybe someday the white one might break, and it would be convenient if we had a spare.

Mind you, we pretty much only make toast around here if there’s company, but that’s beside the point. Which is: Never. Throw. Anything. Away.

He wasn’t home when I unearthed that baddy this time, and I almost tossed it in the trash before he could ever see. But then the little voice in my head said “It still works. You are being Very Wasteful. Which is the 21st-century equivalent of worshipping a Golden Calf.”

I told that voice to shut up and it did. But then the other one cleared its throat and chimed in: “Johnny will find it. Somehow, he will know. He will have accidentally thrown out his eyeglasses or something, and he will dig through the trash, and he will find it. And then you will get in a Big Fight with Screaming and Yelling and Dishware Flying Through the Air.”

That happened anyway, as you know, but not because of anything I did with the toaster.

I left it on the kitchen floor, along with that old one-burner which used to be our entire kitchen, and a toaster oven I’d also forgotten that we owned. I told him the Calf’s-honest truth: they all still worked; we didn’t need any of them; but if he wanted to we could shove them in the attic for a rainy day. I did point out, however, that we’d forgotten we owned them already. If anything they might replace had broken last week, we would have gone out and replaced it. If anything broke more than, say, three months from now, we will probably have forgotten them again.

He agreed that they should go.

Holy crap, I think I’ve stumbled on to something here! Tell him to throw it away, and he will divorce me over his right to keep a broken thing, but tell him he can have something that actually works, and he’ll throw it away!

Well, not “throw it away” exactly. He did insist that, since they worked, it did behoove us to at least attempt to give them proper homes. I didn’t have a problem with that. It did, after all, genuinely seem to be the proper thing to do – and hey, in the end it still meant they’d be out of my house.

We tried. We did not put them on Freecycle or Craigslist or ebay because, well, because I just haven’t decided yet that it’s time to break through that cyber wall. But we tried the old-fashioned way. We offered them to everyone we knew. We did, actually, have a couple takers, but no one actually came by to pick them up. They sat stacked on the floor of the front porch for three solid weeks, until finally, just this past Friday, I left for work and they were stacked up with the trash.

Holy crap again, please! Johnny actually threw something – something actually useful – some three actually useful things – away! Everybody, quick, check out your windows for horsemen and angels. All clear? Well, okay, I guess it isn’t quite a sign of end times, then. But still pretty significant, if you ask me.

Maybe we had turned a crossroads, not only in our house, but in our relationship. Maybe we were learning to unclutter our home by uncluttering our hearts. Maybe, by taking baby steps towards compromising our desires we were, like that bald, perpetually late couple in “The Gift of the Magi,” canceling each other out. Maybe the lesson here was: Give of yourself, give what you know the other truly wants, and receive more than material goods in return. Receive in return serenity, happiness, and peace inside your home.

Yeah, blah blah blah – guess what?

The big white toaster broke on Sunday.

Oh, Henry!


J Auclair said...

My first laugh of the day!

su said...

Jeesh buy an identical replacement quickly!

LadyCiani said...

What Su said!

Understand completely the dealing-with-packrat scenario. We have moved together twice now, and boxes that I packed in his bachelor apartment? Those things he had to have, and which I gathered my willpower, and my dust rag, and my pledge spray, and my yellow gloves, and cleaned stuff so it could be clean when we unpacked it? They haven't been unpacked yet. Three years and two places later. said...

The Fiance has an entire closet, storage facility and spare bedroom and space in his parent's house of crap he can't part with. Someday I'm gonna get me a BIG shovel.

EGE said...

And hit him with it!

Oh no wait, sorry, that's MY plan...

theotherbear said...


LadyCiani said...

ILU wins!

Leslie said...

Oh lord can I relate. Typical exchange around here:
Me: I'm going to freecycle/donate this.
Partner: NO!! We can use it!
Me: Ok whatever, go stash it.
Partner shashes it most inconveniently and messily.
Time passes.
Me: Can we get rid of that?
P: What? I didn't even know we had it.
Me: Oh good, then we can get rid of it.
P: NO!!! We might be able to use it!!

Repeat repeat repeat.

Confession: I do sometimes just disappear things when I can get away with it. I plan soon to disappear three suit bags when neither of us wears suits or travels to places where we'd bring suit bags.

Green Fairy said...

I really think it's guys that are the worst pack rats. My fiance can't bear to part with his flippin' physics homework from college. I mean really. When the heck will that ever be useful? I've moved those stupid notebooks three times in six years, and never once have they seen the light of day.

EGE said...

I would say Green Fairy wins for that crack about the physics homework, except for somewhere in this house there is a notebook with full of pencil drawings of vertebrate skeletons that I am inordinately proud of.

At least I HOPE there is...