By Vicki Hughes Posted March 9, 2013
There’s nothing like packing up and moving your household to bring you face to face with your hoarding tendencies and housekeeping inadequacies. This past fall, in what I can only describe as The Bermuda Triangle of Bad Timing, I decided to move for the second time in two years, go on vacation, help our daughter move into the house we were vacating, and go out of state to get my mom to move her from Tennessee to Alabama, into the mother-in-law suite at our new house. It’s not stress that I like, it’s excessive stress.
All of this moving made me very aware of my foibles, quirks and assorted mental illnesses. I was faced with the damning reality that since 1986 I’d managed to transport a nearly empty tin of Safeway Allspice all over the United States, and not because I’m fond of kitchen antiques, but because I’m a Condiment Whore. In fact I’m a complete nutcase when it comes to spices, condiments, and anything pickled. I squirrel them away as if preparing for the coming Apocalypse of Seasonings.
This recent move once again confronted me with a can of hearts of palm that I can never seem to bring myself to add to a salad, “My God, what year did I buy that!?” I’m clearly incapable of throwing it away. Do you know what they want for hearts of palm? Using it is to risk ptomaine poisoning, but tossing it gives me the shivers. I have issues.
Our new house has a gorgeous stainless steel refrigerator, which is lovely to look at, but is significantly smaller than the typical requirements of a Condiment Whore. Would you like to guess from which side I inherited my food hoarding genes? Yes, from my mother…and we are now sharing a Barbie doll refrigerator. Yesterday we made the mistake of going grocery shopping together. We came out of the Piggly Wiggly as if we were each personally responsible for feeding the Pittsburg Steelers. What were we thinking? As we were loading things into the trunk I kept eyeballing her bags of groceries quietly thinking, “There better be room in that fridge for my Bud Light Chelada’s or her sour cream is getting the ax!”
A recently discovered challenge of having two women in the same house is that we both move things, but one of us moves the other’s stuff more. She KEEPS MOVING MY SHIT! I’ve nearly had a couple of breakdowns looking for, in no particular order: empty plastic shopping bags for dog poop duty, a wet Swiffer, maraschino cherries, horseradish, a plastic container for leftovers, tealights, and, God help me, my martini shaker.
After some very sweet quizzing on my part, I was taken to their maddeningly logical locations. Their new homes made perfect sense, but they were simply not where I saw them last. Coffee filters in the cabinet above the coffee maker? I thought they were fine sitting on the counter…Oh no. No, no, no. Logical.
Not only does she have a flair for putting things in logical order (spices, alphabetized “loosely” from left to right!) She is very neat. My husband and I are a bit neat-challenged. Or maybe I should say we have a higher threshold for the non-neat than she does. Either way, it’s a bit of an adjustment.
I have discovered things I truly didn’t know. The unsightly must be camouflaged. Electrical cords are the crazy relative in a Victorian novel, discretely kept out of sight. Everyone knows you have them, but nobody must ever see them. The plastic trashbag that lines the pedal-operated trashcan? It should be neatly folded over, into the can, in a tiny little cuff that can only be seen with a very high powered microscope. It matters not that my husband and I create a very American amount of trash every 24 hours, and this cuff-folding ritual will become a part time job for someone. Not me! I truly do not give a rat’s ass if the trashcan liner is visible on a trashcan. I’m pretty sure everyone knows there’s a trashbag in there. Why are our trashbags in the Witness Protection Program?
I kidded her the other day, saying I think she’s part squirrel, and everything is a nut to be hidden to her. I had no idea that daily living could have so many rules. Holy shit. For instance, did you know that used coffee filters and their grounds are to be thrown away before you leave the house, rather than the next morning when you’re ready to make more coffee? Me neither. File that away, you’re going to need it later.
The cushions for patio chairs need to be brought in nightly to protect them from the dew. This relentless attention to cushion maintenance may sound a bit extreme, but it also explains why the cushions she bought in 1994, when our daughter was five years old, look like brand new. I’ve bought a new set every year. You could safely perform open heart surgery on my Mom’s patio chair cushions. After a full summer of use, mine usually look like the reject pile after a trailer park yardsale. Sadly, I’m comfortable with my sloppy cushion behavior. I also admit that it’s oddly comforting when our now twenty-three year old daughter is sitting there on those same pristine cushions, sipping a mimosa on a Sunday afternoon. Comforting, and a little weird, like time travel to the nineties.
Adapting.That’s what we’re all doing. We’re learning to adjust to having three grown adults living with four dogs, and how we will manage to love and respect each other in spite of all our individual persnikitiness.
She whispers to me out of the side of her mouth, “I don’t know if you want to say anything to John, but MOST people wear shirts when they cook.”
Um, no. Actually I don’t think I will say a word, since he’s cooking in his own house. But your revulsion is duly noted! Dear God. I’m just thankful that he’s wearing shorts! When you’ve been married nearly thirty years to an Australian/Californian/Redneck carpenter, you have to expect a few etiquette adjustments. What he lacks in proper attire, I promise he makes up for in amazing BBQ chicken. It’s probably the mixture of marinades and dripping sweat that makes it special.
My Mom always compliments me on how easy going I am. I’m now starting to wonder if easy going is code for “sketchy low standards,” but I’m okay with it. My Mom is amazing. She is beyond accommodating, she wants everyone to be happy all the time, she offers to help me, and keeps the wheels of progress turning, preventing our new household from spiraling off into complete chaos.
When the adjustment period is all said and done, I may have to teach her the art of the perfect dirty martini. I’m sure she could make James Bond shed tears over the perfection of her martinis if only someone showed her the ropes. Then, when she asked me, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” I could say, “Shake it, Sister!” That’s help I need.
I know she’s intrigued with the whole martini thing. About a week after she moved in, we were in the kitchen together, and I’d mixed my nightly adult beverage. I poured it with a flourish into a blue martini glass. The frosty chilled edges just said, “This is wonderfulness in a glass.”
She looked furtively at me and asked quietly, “Do you mind if I taste it?” I smiled my evil genius smile and said, “Why, no. Go right ahead, but prepare yourself. I like booze in my booze. It’s boozy.” She took a tiny squirrel-sip and then coughed like Doris Day in a Rock Hudson movie. That will teach her to mess with my gin. I may have her condiment hoarding genes, but I got my Daddy’s drinking genes. I do not require my alcohol to taste like iced tea, a peppermint patty or a Snicker’s Bar. I eat my food, and I drink my drinks. But I am not opposed to a tiny snack in my drink, I mean, olives are condiments, and that’s how I roll.
© Vicki Hughes 2013