I’m embarrassed to say it but a few months ago the chord to our house phone got stuck in the freezer door and it was left ajar for 36 hours without us noticing. When we woke up in the morning there was a pool of defrosted goo-juice on the floor around the fridge. Jason got down on his hands and knees and cleaned it up, threw out the spoiled food and shut the freezer door. I didn’t say anything otherwise. I just wanted to be done with the whole mess because I had so much else to worry about that I wasn’t ready to actually scrub out the freezer. We just refroze that goo-juice on the bottom of the freezer and vowed to get to it in a few days. But I know what you’re thinking. Why in the actual hell do we have a house phone with a chord? I know. I know. Jason has a nostalgia for things that remind him of a simpler time of being chained to the kitchen wall talking to his grandmother for hours. Needless to say, we still haven’t cleaned out the frozen goo-juice.
I don’t use the freezer much. We’re not a freeze everything, meat stockpiling type of people and don’t drink our water with ice. When I need frozen berries for smoothies I quickly pull them out to avoid looking at the mess that is my life at the bottom of the freezer and quickly shut the door. But when company comes over they always want ice. When they make themselves at home, which I always insist they do, they open the freezer and stare blankly into the abyss of moldy, months old goo-juice and wonder if they should just drink lukewarm water. It’s at about that moment when I start to stare at the dog hair under all of my furniture and the old magazines and children’s books under the couch legs used to keep it even on top of our uneven floors. The smudges and dust on our white kitchen cabinets are ornate pendants surrounding the broken vent on our microwave over the stove that has stains between the glass that we just can’t seem to reach. And why is stainless steel even called stainless? They obviously didn’t test this material on my children because they’ve stained it. Permanently. When I escort my guests into my dinning room all I see is the dust and piles of papers in the office and toys and bags of stuff that I haven’t taken to the thrift store yet to donate. And forget about the laundry. If my guests look closely enough they’ll see that it’s probably the same laundry that was lying on the couch the last time they were here, just now moved into a hamper. I look at them glad that I’m at least not naked.
When I think back on my girlhood, I remember my grandmother fussing over her house and her cooking from when she woke until she went to sleep. She ironed her husband and her son’s clothes for hours after washing them and before hanging them in their closets. And there sits my family’s laundry on our couch for days. I wonder if my husband looks at that laundry and feels a stinging embarrassment when his mom comes over. Does that laundry pile up on his psyche as it does mine? He merrily fusses over his job and does his duty taking care of us and building our kids a tree house all while the weight of my grandmother’s life work hovers over me and I never stack up. Until he takes a look outside and realizes that he has tools lying around the yard and leaning against the shed. We both have pressures from our ancestors causing us to be embarrassed of our imperfect house keeping, work, and finances. Because our bank account is as bad as our freezer. We have more frozen goo-juice than money, as it turns out.
This morning my grandmother is looking at me from across my dining room table sipping her coffee telling me that I fuss over my writing too much and need to go wash the blinds. Her fingers are pressed against her jaw as she leans on the table with her elbow. Gazing around the room she is disapproving of how irresponsible I have been. Reading and writing for hours a day instead of cleaning out my freezer. Taking Ruby for walks around the neighborhood instead of organizing the mail. Teaching Myles and Owen about plants and bees instead of weeding. I know she thinks they’re spoiled and need a haircut. I know. The most liberating thing I ever did was to stop giving a shit of what my grandmother thinks of me from her grave. I’m disheveled. Unorganized. Dusty and cluttered. I spend my time organizing gardens at schools, reading books, research, and articles. I write. I garden. I play with my kids. I cook slow and long. I have grass stains on my jeans. Smudges on my mirrors. And I’m happy. Was she? Or did her ancestors haunt her into submission? Not me.