Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Throw THAT Out!

My pantry was organized this morning.  MaryLynne organized and designed and lifted and cleaned.  She sorted and categorized and stacked.  She wondered what I thought about this or that, and, for the most part, we agreed.

Then she picked up the silver ice bucket.  The ice bucket that has nooks and crannies and creases and which never really shines, no matter how much silver polish and elbow grease is applied.  The ice bucket with the lid that has never closed all the way for as long as I can remember.  The ice bucket which sat in the corner of the dry sink in G'ma and Daddooooo's foyer for a long long time, until it was moved to the hutch, covered in saran wrap to keep it from tarnishing.

That never made much sense to me, either.  Akin to Aunt Lilly's plastic covered couches, it told me in no uncertain terms that this was an item that was waiting for an Important Occasion before it would be unwrapped, but that it was too impressive an item to be stashed away in a cabinet.  People should know that I own it; just don't make me invest much energy in maintaining it.  As I said, it never made sense to me, either.

But it's been sitting in my house since I moved G'ma out of her Long Island manse and into her New Jersey apartment.  It fit nicely in one corner of one of the boxes I was sending to myself, alongside mementos and tupperware.  Arriving in Tucson, it moved from the kitchen counter to the vase shelves to the floor of the pantry, where it sat, taking up space, until MaryLynne arrived.

She hefted it - it's not an insubstantial weight - and turned a questioning eye my way.

I was stuck.

We'd been ruthless up to this point.  The pantry contained only those items I knew that I would use again.  Granted, some of them were on a shelf reachable only with a ladder and a prayer, but that's why I have kids and a husband - there's always somebody taller than I am who is willing to lend a hand.  All the plastic and paper picnic-ware is together in the Target chest of drawers in the garage.  The real party stuff, the hand-me-downs from Nannie and G'ma, the holiday presents and housewarming gifts, those are on shelves behind cabinetry in the kitchen.  I'm very careful when I open those doors.  Nothing inside is replaceable.

And then there's the ice bucket.  It's much too fancy for a bar-b-que and not perfect enough for an upscale shindig.  In any lighting, the dents and the tarnish are more visible than I'd like them to be.  The fact that the lid doesn't quite make a seal in what should be the closed position makes it more of an avatar than an actual usable item.

I am storing an artifact in my pantry.

This does not please me.  I am on my way to what we lovingly and respectfully call Episcopal Decor.   It's a minimalist approach, where only the bare essentials are on display.  This is in direct contrast to Jewish Decorating, which involves an over-abundance of tchotchkes, of trinkets, of family photos askew on the walls.  Keeping the ice bucket seems like the first step in the wrong direction.  I'm learning to love a clutter-free environment.  Hanging onto this thing....

But, of course, it's more than a thing.  It's the memory of tossing my keys into the well of the dry sink and trying not to hit the ice bucket.  It's noticing that wrapped carcass as I got the silverware from the drawer in the hutch just below the nook in which it rested.  It's wondering why they had it and why they kept it if they never used it.  It's a piece of my outlook on the world when I was 10 years old.

I can't make myself put it out in the garage. It's too tall for the lower cabinets and too heavy for the upper shelves. There's no room for it in the pantry, which now contains useful items only.  There is no space in there for memories, for relics of my past. I don't have an attic or a basement.

So, for now, it is sitting on the kitchen counter, not really taunting me, but not all that quiet, either.

I think I might consider its fate while rubbing it down with silver polish and gloves.   I'll be listening carefully, just in case it has something to say on the matter.  My past often does.


  1. It holds many memories for you, apparently. I would not get rid of it. Find another use for it, such as holding something you do use frequently.

    I must be an honorary Jew, considering how many "things" I have (even though I've had 4-5 garage sales over the years). I, too, am trying to come to terms with having/displaying less. It is a long, learning process for me.

  2. I'd keep it and use it anyway at a barbecue. Who cares if it is unusual at such a gathering. It sounds like it'd be neat with big dried arrangements of cattails or something fall like. It's functional; but I am into avant-garde and don't match much of anything to anything. I like mix and match

  3. Put it on the counter and use it for things that you would ordinarily put in a bowl there. See if you like seeing it every day or not. And then decide.

  4. I'm really trying to declutter my life right now. I keep throwing stuff out but I accumulate new stuff even faster. I have a hard time getting rid of stuff because they're all attached to memories--maybe I just need to stop making memories.

  5. Do what I do in situations like this. Give it to which ever kid you think will complain upon hearing it's gone.

  6. Re-purpose it for another use and I bet you'll enjoy having it around. Kindling for a fireplace?
    I am ruthless ever since I cleaned my grandmother's house out 20 years ago!

  7. Is that what I have? Jewish decorating? Thank you for clearing that up!

    I like layers of pattern, tabletops covered with framed family photos, Aunt Grace's chipped china. They invented Shabby Chic to help me feel better about my house. And I love it. I move within a memory; it's how I know who I am.

  8. I have recently had to deal with this sort of thing. My husband and I are moving to New Mexico from New Jersey. We have SO MUCH STUFF!! I've been very good about getting rid of things I don't need...I've even gotten rid of a lot of my books which really broke my heart. About a year ago, I had to close out the house of my ex-husband who had passed away. He had inherited some real antiques from his parents. It broke my heart, but I had to sell things. I also had to throw out things that wouldn't be something anyone would buy...family photos, etc. It broke my heart again. Just yesterday, in going through a storage unit we have, I found more of those family photos. Had to throw them out. What could I do with them? Still haunting me. Hang on to your ice bucket just as long as you want it. That's all I have to say.


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