“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment.
Until it becomes a memory.”

When Gmamma died, lovely people brought lovely food to the apartment at Shannondale, and it was most appreciated. My advice to you if you’re wondering what to do when someone dies is to act first and ask questions later. If you ask the bereaved if they need anything, they will answer politely that they do not, thank you very much. But they do. Cards, calls, prayers, flowers and food. Especially in the South, where we love people by feeding them. I was cleaning out the last of the funeral food in DooDaddy’s refrigerator when I spied a half-eaten roll of Thin Mints, and this memory from last spring came flooding back.


Omystars, I literally can’t even …

Me: “Mom, have you been drinking your Ensure like Dr. Bhandari said to?”
Gmamma: “I tried to, but it tasted sour.”
DooDaddy: “Oh, would you like those Polish hors d’oeuvres in the freezer for company?”
Me, via thought bubble: “WTF, Polish hors d’oeuvres?”

I open the freezer to find a bag of Polish potstickers from Sam’s Club that expired in 2011. Not to mention spoiled, half-drunk bottles of Ensure in the fridge.

Now I’m madly rummaging through everything in there, revealing a treasure trove of ptomaine poisoning. Did Gmamma and DooDaddy actually move expired groceries from the house when they came to Shannondale A YEAR AGO?

Why yes, yes they did.

Gmamma is laughing soundlessly, tears streaming from her eyes as I pull out a jar of pickles from 2008, yogurt and ice cream from 2014, Jimmy Dean frozen sausage biscuits from 2012, and on and on it goes – I’m just relieved not to discover the Lindberg baby behind a carton of stale Neapolitan ice cream.

“We thought we’d be snacking in the apartment a lot more,” offers DooDaddy, by way of explanation. “But we mostly eat our meals in the Dining Room.”

Me, via thought bubble: “THANK THE GOOD LORD!”

Three voluminous garbage bags later, I leave my geezers with bottled water, Powerade, and the candy from Gmamma’s Christmas stocking. I confiscate Girl Scout Cookies (From this year. I checked.) to take home with me. It would be a tragedy to let Samoas go to waste. I do leave a half-eaten roll of Thin Mints in the butter dish. And half a Rueben sandwich in a paper bag from yesterday’s lunch, but only because Gmamma had carefully labeled it “May 16, 2015.”

Doomsday Preppers got nuttin’ on my Depression-era parents.

I grew up in a house stuffed to the gills with stuff, like a pufferfish about to blow. Sterling silver, family portraits and heirloom jewelry to be sure, but also 40 years of National Geographic and Mom’s kitchen windowsill full of empty airplane-sized alcohol bottles. I’m not saying she drank. Or that she even traveled. She just kept things. Everything.

Folded and reused tin foil and scraped grease in an old Crisco can on the stove. Stacked and stashed brown paper grocery bags and last year’s Christmas wrapping paper and bows. Children of the Great Depression were the original Green Generation, repurposing and “up cycling” before it was a thing. My parents were alike in that way.

So you can see why I art direct my pantry shelves and stage the toothbrush cup and Q-tip holder by the bathroom sink – it’s a reaction to the clutter that engulfed my childhood. I like surfaces. Uncluttered. I’m a ruthless thrower outer of things. If I buy a new item of clothing, I get rid of something in my closet. Excess stuff makes me claustrophobic. Feng shui is my Xanax. It soothes me to have clean sheets on the bed and fresh vacuum tracks on the carpet.

It soothed Gmamma to save paper napkins and reuse dental floss.

Funny thing, what so recently frustrated me now has me pining for my precious pack rat mother.


Doesn’t everybody keep Thin Mints Girl Scout Cookies in the butter dish?