Boxing Day

Dearest Rachel –

I know next to nothing about where December 26th gets its name. I suppose that’s partly because I don’t live in a Commonwealth nation, where it’s even celebrated. But it seems a very strange name indeed. It would make sense if it had something to do with boxing up gifts that you didn’t want in order to take them back for store credit – the ‘many happy returns of the day,’ if you will – but I seriously doubt it. It’s almost too logical a connection to be true, and I dare say the name is older than department stores and Christmas ingratitude. It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with pugilism – or at least I hope not.

That being said, today might as well be Boxing Day for me, as Jan’s coming over to help me empty out the kitchen before the remodelers arrive later on this coming month.

I just hope I have enough to pack it all away into.

She finds the pile of boxes I’ve assembled to be hilarious, and I agree that it does look pretty silly piled up all in one place like this. But I also know there’s a lot of stuff hidden throughout the kitchen, and it’s likely to be a close call as to which will run out first: the boxes, or the stuff to put into them.

Jan arrives with a battle plan, as always. We are to start in one corner of the room, and work our way clockwise around it, going through each item and deciding whether to keep, to donate, or to throw it out – and if we are to keep it, whether to store it for the time being, or keep it within arm’s reach for use in the immediate future.

The first stop is the microwave cart, which has several driftwood art pieces created by your dad atop it.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that it hasn’t been touched in probably the better part of a decade, time is not been kind to them. The bone that once held it together has been snapped, and the piece of driftwood in the upper left is all but falling off.
The duct tape that held this one together is wearing out, and both works are completely covered in dust that I don’t think it would be possible to remove. Much as I hate to do it, I have to agree with Jan that these need to go.
However, while this work by Daniel is every bit as dusty as your dad’s, he’s still here to appreciate it, so I’m going to keep it downstairs. The rest of these books also need to be stored away somewhere else.

It’s weird to be right back where this process all started; clearing out the kitchen, and assessing what I actually use as opposed to what I thought I might use back almost a year ago. I find myself agreeing to dispense with just about anything made of either stone or wood, as each have proved particularly difficult for me to figure out how to clean adequately.

Like this cookie sheet, for instance. Let’s be fair, we got a lot of use out of it back in the day; but that was then, and this is now.

As a result, I haven’t used them, and haven’t been that much the worse off for it; and so, either into the trash (I’m sorry, honey, but some of your parents’ stuff that we brought back from their home is rusty or corroded – I’m not using it on food, and can’t be expected to ask someone else to do so, either) or off to Goodwill they go.

You would think that having purged the kitchen once already, there wouldn’t be that much to get rid of. And yet, here we are.

It turns out there’s a lot of stuff in that kitchen I haven’t been using all that much. Granted, there are a few things of that sort that I’m keeping simply because I will be able to use them in the near future (like cookie sheets and baking racks – hard to use them without an oven). But old teacups and holiday mugs I have too many of, and just never get around to using. Some of these things, even you’d express surprise at finding deep in the back of these cabinets.

Such as this mug of yours, commemorating your graduation. It’s very much in the style of the era, but it’s never going to get any more use, as it’s not ours to use, frankly. It doesn’t commemorate any achievement of ours.

So yeah. Still getting rid of a lot of stuff. Which is ironic, considering that the new layout will allow for more place for stuff, and easier access to that stuff… and I’m paring down the amount of stuff I have. So many of these new cabinets and drawers are likely to remain mostly empty once it’s all put together, at this rate.

The same goes for the pantry. I would say that Jan is merciless with her rule about expiry dates, except she’s given me a little bit of leeway yet for certain things that Daniel continues to assure me that he’s going to get to sometime. He actually made a point to make sure they weren’t thrown out during the first purge (since they were already past the date at that point, and obviously haven’t gotten any younger), but hasn’t touched them since. I sense her disapproval, and at this point, I even agree with her, but I’m still willing to give Daniel the benefit of the doubt. I know how it is to not be in the mood for something, but wanting to still have it all the same.

On the other hand, there are other things that I really wish I didn’t have to throw out, but know it’s for the best. We bought a couple of bags of dried cheese cubes at a farmers’ market during the summer of 2020 – and they weren’t cheap, either – only to discover that they really weren’t all that tasty. It’s painful to admit that was a waste of money, but they’ve only gotten worse since. Similarly, there are certain foodstuffs in the pantry that were basically yours – the Nutter Butter wafers, the Baconator flavored potato crisps, the microwave popcorn – that I would never have touched because they belonged to you, and still can’t bring myself to eat now that you’re gone. To throw them out, as necessary a move as this is, seems just one more admission that you’re gone and not coming back.

And I thought that, from a remove of fourteen-plus months, I could be completely dispassionate about the process… but I’m not. Oh, it doesn’t hurt the way finding a long-lost photo of us might, but it’s still something of yours that I have no choice but to get rid of, and I find myself surprised to feel a pang or two about it even now. I actually don’t know what’s stronger, the sense of loss I feel at having to do so, or the surprise that I’m still dealing with that sense of loss in the first place.

Still, after a full seven-hour day, the job is more or less done. Everything is down in the basement (although what food had previously been stored in the utility room has been disposed of as well; it seems we may not have a vermin problem in the pantry anymore, but the utility room is another story. Hopefully, the exterminators should be making their quarterly visit soon, but we’ve lost a lot of old Halloween candy. On the other hand, all of it was as much past its expiry date as the stuff in the pantry), and awaiting the renovators’ arrival in the next two weeks. We’re as ready as we’re going to be. I wish you could be a part of this.

But for now, all I can ask is that you keep an eye out for me (and the house), and wish us luck. We’re going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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