Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Little Writing

I was gearing up to do my Saturday cleaning this morning, but I had taken it easy, reading and sipping coffee and taking numerous breaks to pet my cats and look out at the back yard birds at the feeders and birdbath. A little story, or perhaps you could call it a little vignette kept going through my head until I gave in to it, and came to my computer to write it down. Here it is:

They got along well except for a few issues. One that seemed to be a niggling thing, yet, if you think about it, showed a substantial difference in their survival concepts, was how they dealt with running out of things.

Both of them had the educated middle class fear of doing without. They neither of them had gone through the Depression, and they lived in a society of total gluttony. This ignorance of real poverty coupled with the present frenzy of purchasing and ownership, made them hoard. He hoarded and hid, she counted and organized – and herein lies their humorous paradox. He, in his anxiety of looking and finding no more, had the habit of stashing those necessities and comforts – toilet paper, medicine, coins, in places he swore he’d remember. Then, when one of those items was needed, but somehow had not been replenished, he would scurry around from one hiding place to another until he proudly produced the wanted item against all odds. In that fashion, he could sleep peacefully knowing he never REALLY ran out of anything. There was always some of any item somewhere in the house that he could, with a little digging, find. He had staved off the black dog of want in his own mind, in this fashion.

He also had the habit of throwing very little out, including crumpled papers, receipts, pens that no longer worked, cryptic notes he had written himself in his crabbed and unreadable script. These items would get stuffed haphazardly into the same places he counted as legitimate for stashing necessities – and they lived an uncomfortable existence, jostled together.

He left change – coin change – everywhere. He threw it in drawers. He tossed it behind him into the cavernous and littered area behind his seat when he drove through fast food joints and toll booths. Cleaning out any area he frequented involved a money-making proposition, albeit of not much amount. When he came home from work, he threw all his coins into whatever desk drawer or pen cup was nearest him, as he divested himself of the world in preparation for the evening at home.

She was the exact opposite. Her goal, and one of the things she most enjoyed, was to produce order out of chaos; to put all of like items together in one place so that they could be readily procured; also so they could be admired in their plenty, since she almost never had one of anything and certainly never bought just one of anything. She had experienced a fairly prosperous and sheltered childhood in a large comfortable home with two relatively stable parents. Where she came by the need to know there was an unending font of supply of those things she valued, I can’t say. Having never done without, but having read extensively, perhaps her imagination was enough to tell her she never wanted to face an absence of her treasured things. In truth, and she knew it, she was far too enamoured of things, and far too fearful of losing them. Given these propensities, she would, once a week during cleaning and organizing, collect all the change from all the nooks and crannies in his areas, and secrete it in her coin jar. She reveled in putting all the pens she could find around the house, in one drawer. Labeling was another valuable aspect of her activity. It was a challenge to find all the flotsam and jetsam of their daily lives and categorize it, file it away safely. She was very thorough. When the mail came, she would open it all right there, immediately discarding the inserts and envelopes that were unnecessary additional trash and clutter, leaving only the bare bones of the (mostly) bills.

She would start in his room first, hang up the tangle of clothes he had tossed everywhere, scheduling for the wash even the things he had worn for a brief time. In the process of restoring order, her troubled spirit would be quieted. The very action of clearing the bed of debris and clothes had a soothing effect, as if, by her actions within her home, she could make their effect felt all around the world, like the ripples from a pebble, restoring order in a heated, feverish world. It was as if she could, by the simple few acts of smoothing, hanging, dusting, sweeping, bring order to at least the parts of creation that were under her rule. As much as she enjoyed this, the fact that it had to be repeated almost daily was a reminder of the result of sin on the world and the entropy that destroyed all order and beauty, and, if nothing else, it was annoying to have to do the same acts over and over again, like putting her finger in the dyke of chaos. When they were first married, she also included a cleanout of his desk and drawers with her regular cleaning, but having thrown away a fragment of wrinkled paper with scribbled numbers on it once too often, and witnessing him dig frantically for his lost item in the places he knew best and then level his frustrated gaze at her accusingly, she left off trifling with his, to her, strange method of storage.

An offshoot of her love of restoring order was having a great many items to order. Garage sales became her passion, thrift shops a treasure of inexpensive items where she could leave with bagfuls of merchandise without having spent more than a few dollars. When she purchased anything, she would purchase several in various colors or scents. She had gone completely overboard on candlesticks, candles and scented wax tarts and baskets were another weakness. She had baskets in closets, baskets hung around the top of the walls in her kitchen, about six inches below the ceiling. There were baskets full of candle accessories on tables doubling as scent and decoration. She had more baskets than she could use, and yet she had to forcefully stop herself from buying more when they could be had for a dime or a quarter. Often she succeeded with ordinary baskets, but those that were unusual she bought and then struggled to find a place for them. It seems to me this practice of purchasing too much of any one thing, and then organizing it all in specific places is related, smacks of fear, or perhaps greed, or perhaps simply the desire to pass one’s eyes over a heap of items, treasure if you will, in an array of colors or shapes and know that it will be a very long time before she could possibly run out.

He never opposed her buying habits, but supported them in every way. It was simple. He loved her and he wanted her to be happy, so saying “no” to her desires was not an option. If they could afford for her to have her desires, then so be it. Actually, even if they couldn’t afford it, this continued, since, after all, it was only a few dollars at a time. And if truth be told, he had his purchasing weaknesses also, but that is another story for another time.

So here they were so well suited in so many ways, and yet these actions of theirs constantly put them at gentle odds. She would sequester all of an item in one place, so as to keep watch over its availability, so as to procure more at the faintest hint of loss. He would, just as carefully, remove one or two of those items to one of his hiding places, ostensibly for the same reason. I suppose, at the very least, they kept each other busy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for sharing this story. I feel like I was ment to read it. It reminds me of my realtionship with my llive in boyfriend. Your story has us peged to a tee. The strange thing is I landed here totaly by accedent. I was looking for a picure of which grass, and I was directed by google to you. I have enjoyed the story. Please, next time a "little story" nags at you, do fight it. You have a real talent.