A Clear Sight Line

One of the projects on my list for the house is a mild-modify of the kitchen. In the interim, I had an outlet installed in the pantry so that I could move my appliances off the counter. In order to do this, I had to do a little tidying.

I’m horribly messy, which no one believes because all my mess, domestic and emotional, happens behind closed doors. Jumbles of bowls, piles of knives, tipped over water bottles. Consistently, the more space there is in a hidden nook, the more mess.  This was the case the with the pantry.

In order to move the appliances I had to remove a shelf, which demanded some shifting. Few tasks have provided as much insight into my psyche. There was a box of crackers that had been down to the last four for months, but there they were still nestled tightly in the waxed sleeve. A shelf down and to the right, laying on its side was a box of the “wrong” Goldfish (whole wheat, good heavens) that has been there, opened, since last summer. And on the bottom shelf lived a pile of small cans of wet dog food samples that were a promotion in Rosie and Dexter’s dry food for well over a year.

These tins, smaller than any can of tuna, would not provide my Boxers a nibble. Rosie is sweet and feminine, but even she would be insulted by this amuse bouche. But each week as I opened a 20 lb. bag of kibble, I would carefully place another tiny tin on the bottom shelf of the pantry.

There is a spring of anxiety that goes along with starting these house projects  – the third floor, the kitchen, the baths – that comes from a deep and hidden well. After her divorce, through both her actions and her words, my mother began tattooing a phrase on my brain. “There’s not enough.”

How can I throw away three crackers, when I may need them later? How can I donate the simple, short-sleeved sheath that has never fit quite right when there may be a day that I will need it and have nothing? How can I discard these tiny cans of dog food when they may someday be all I have to offer my forty pound beasts?

But I am beginning to remind myself that not only does this mantra of lack not serve me, but it is not true. I have always had enough and in most cases much more than enough. So with some guilt I threw away the crackers and bagged up the dog food for the next person I saw standing on a street corner with a sign and a pup and moved on.

The toaster oven and the coffee maker agree that the pantry is cozy, and the countertops are blissfully clean.

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10 thoughts on “A Clear Sight Line

  1. My mother was a child of the Depression. She was not a hoarder, but she did believe in the power of the pantry. My great aunt, who functioned as grandmother when my grandmother died when I was a year old was born in Georgia about 20 years after the Civil War. She grew up in a world that was still devastated. Her mother taught her to be the was the ultimate pantry maker. She gardened, she canned, she pickled, and her pantry was amazing. There were two door on either side of her large stove. They looked like broom closets or places to hang aprons, but each had a door that opened to an secret L-shaped room, filled with shelves of her hard work. There were baskets of potatoes and onions. The whole room was lit by dangling lightbulbs that made the place look a hiding place. My aunt’s mother lived in the carriage house on the property. She never forgot what it like to be hungry and to live in fear of the Yankees. Tales were told. Admonitions were made. Her daughter’s pantry in Oklahoma was a testament—perhaps the tattoo!—that keeping family safe and fed was a serious business. And we young girls were advised to carry on the tradition. We yawned and rolled eyes. I became a gardener and a cook (yet to pickle!). I married a Yankee.

    I have a friend whose sister is delightfully proned to malapropisms. One day she grabbed a sweet potato and exclaimed, “As God as my waitress, I’ll never be hungry again!” Just barely enough is sometimes never enough. There are worse things to fret about. Can’t wait to read about your new rooms.

  2. Always a treat to see you’ve posted something.

    Conversation overheard at exercise class this morning: “My husband has been cleaning the garage, and his workshop area. I would swear he’s been happier ever since. He goes out there now just for the fun of it.”

    It’s liberating, getting rid of things we won’t use –ever–or can’t use. The bonus of course when someone else can.

    Keep writing. Often.

  3. I love this. We just moved and got rid of so many THINGS. We still have plenty! And a clear sight line seems to release my brain a bit. Keep writing! I love to read these!

    1. Well, I’m focused on being back. Thank you for noticing I was gone! (And I’m not a very patient person, either. I get it.)

  4. Love your writings and finally discovered you are on Instagram. Haven’t done that but will try now.

    Anxious to watch your proceedings with your new “old” house. Love it.

    Grieving the loss of my only son and want to just claw the ground he is in.

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