Friday, August 11, 2006

August 11, 2006: Throwing Away Day

I've spent the afternoon cleaning our sunporch/craft room, stuffing two garbage bags full of junk. Every time I come home from visiting my parents, I want to throw stuff out. I want to toss every scrap of paper, every lone rubber band, every twist-tie. It's true, I know, that I might need those things later. I have caught myself in desperate need of a single rubberband. But my mother grew up during the Depression, and like many of her peers, she saves everything with a ferocity that is foreign to most of us who grew up in later decades. She saves pieces of aluminum foil; bags full of hotel soaps and shampoos; and containers of all sort: butter, cottage cheese, yogurt--you name it. Eggs shells and coffee grounds are tossed onto the outdoor plants. Having a proclivity toward an earthy crunchiness myself (you couldn't escape that in my family), I know that coffee grounds are good for plants, but I can't bring myself to do it. The poem below--the first I ever had accepted for publication--was prompted after a visit to my mother's home many years ago.

Boneless Skinless What does it mean to throw away a sliver of soap? How many years must an empty container be saved? She can't bring herself to wear an apron or to save the chicken broth to use as soup stock later. Her refrigerator has no patience for a single pickle or two stalks of limp celery. Her skillet refuses bacon grease; her plants renounce eggshells and coffee grounds, preferring squirts of store-bought fertilizer. Serving up supper straight from the pan she feels the pains of child-guilt, heavy and familiar as the early dark of winter afternoons. Boneless, skinless breasts reek of idelness; she sways under the weight of her mother's earnest face and the memory of her quick, red hands gouging out potato eyes. ~Sarah Cummins Small

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