May 21, 2020
A thing my sister and I actually googled this week: “Does cotton contain more or fewer nutrients than celery?” We spent too long trying to make sense of the mostly-unhelpful results that Google showed us, but the disappointing answer is that celery probably contains more than cotton because cotton contains roughly zero. The seeds have some protein, I guess? But you’re probably not going to find yourself running to Trader Joe’s for a bag of Lightly Salted Roasted Cottonseeds any time soon. In other news, I would really love to know how many times that exact question has been typed into a Google search. Is it two? One each for my sister and me? Or does Google keep a repository somewhere of all the weirdos who ask that question, and they’ve flagged us as possible perpetrators of crimes against the culinary arts?
Anyway, don’t eat cotton. Don’t eat celery either, it’s kind of a stupid vegetable.
As I’ve mentioned, we’re in the midst of an oddly-timed remodel on our home. Part of the preparation process for that remodel included a no-holds-barred purging of piles and piles of stuff — the kind of random detritus that attaches itself to a home and pretends to be valuable but really just takes up unnecessary space. Some of that stuff found its way to the trash, but more found its way to Goodwill.
I’m a non-sentimental pseudo-minimalist*, so getting rid of things usually feels great, even liberating. It usually brings me joy, Marie Kondo-style. But this time was different. This time I dropped off all those piles and piles of stuff, and I smiled and said thanks to the helpful Goodwill employee, and then I got back in my minivan and wept as I drove away.
Why the weeping? Well, let’s state the obvious first — these last few months have been the weirdest ever, and if you haven’t cried at some point during all this nonsense, then you’re doing your semi-quarantine wrong. I’ve cried over lesser things in these past 9+ weeks than saying goodbye to little pieces of my history, okay?
But did those little pieces of my history actually merit a moment of weepiness following their abrupt disposal? If I had taken them to Goodwill four months ago, when things were still “normal,” would it have made me cry?
There were dishes in that pile that I’d never used, but there were also dishes I had used but had begun to neglect somewhere along the way. There were empty picture frames that had been gathering dust for ages, and decorative pillows whose decorations matched nothing in my house. There were lead crystal candlesticks which had never held candles, and plastic tubs whose purposes (or lids) were long since lost. There were some toy dinosaurs we’d had since our oldest son was a toddler. There was the Mickey Mouse travel mug Todd bought when his usual mug went missing during our stay at the Disneyworld RV park in Florida. There was the battered old luggage set, forest green, that went with us to Jamaica for our honeymoon.
None of it was stuff that was “worth” keeping. All of it was stuff that had long since started collecting dust instead of memories. Probably I wouldn’t have thought twice about most of it, except that everything else in our life feels topsy turvy right now too. I might not have grieved the loss of those dinosaur toys if our dinosaur-loving toddler son wasn’t now a huge teenage boy about to get his driver’s permit. I might not have felt a hole in my heart as I drove away from that honeymoon luggage, if the house I was driving home to wasn’t about to have a sledgehammer taken to it. I might not have cried over those dusty picture frames if they hadn’t felt like a kind of metaphor for the last few months, like they were whispering “your life is as dirty and devoid of people as we are.”
(“Wow, she has really spiteful picture frames. Hey honey, would you say that our picture frames are spiteful? No? Just sorta judgy? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Remind me to ask Elisa where she buys her picture frames, ’cause that place ain’t getting my business.”)
This has been a season of stripping away. Stuff has been stripped away, and time has been stripped away, and plans have been stripped away. Vacations and graduations and goodbyes have been stripped away. When I walk into my house now, the floors and cabinets and feelings of familiarity have all been been stripped away. My sense of security and control, and my belief that I actually kinda know what’s going on in this world, have been stripped away.
Being in the midst of a remodel means that we’re watching our house get pretty much gutted, but it’s getting gutted so that something new can come. Our tile floors had holes and cracks all over them, deep enough in some places they could cut your foot if you stepped on them wrong. Nothing says “welcome to our home” like floors that’ll make your feet bleed! We’ve been wanting to replace those floors for years, and I’m so excited that it’s finally happening, but the new, smooth, non-laceration-inducing floors couldn’t be put down until the old cracked ones were torn up and thrown away.
We get so familiar with the things that have been around awhile — we get so comfortable with them, even when they’re unnecessary, or even when they hurt us. And then we watch them getting torn up and ripped out and we feel a little sad, but the tearing and ripping is good because it means something better is coming to replace it.
The old has to leave in order for the new to come. That’s just the way it is. A plant has to be pruned to grow healthy, cracked floors have to be thrown in a dumpster to make way for smooth ones, and old attitudes and habits can’t stick around when new ones come to replace them.
I can’t pretend to know what fruits these last few months will yield, what kind of makeovers are happening on the floors and cabinets and walls of all of our hearts. But I DO know that whatever it feels like you’ve lost, something new is coming.
This was Quarantine Week 9. Now go grab a snack that’s not cotton or celery.
*pseudo-minimalism (a definition by Elisa Watson): the diminishment of one’s possessions for the purposes of mental, spiritual, and physical clarity, unless those possessions are books, blankets, pens, or coffee mugs. If the possessions are books, blankets, pens, or coffee mugs, they should increase constantly, with great speed.