Jan's Blog Flower



Now reading . . .

"Journey into the Whirlwind"
by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg

"The Wind in the Willows"
by Kenneth Grahame

"The Kite Runner"
by Khaled Hosseini

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Kitchen Midden

If you travel to an historic or archaeological site, the guides will talk about the ruins and often about the kitchen middens. The definition of Kitchen Midden is as follows:

Archaeology- A mound or deposit containing shells, animal bones, and other refuse that indicates the site of a human settlement. Also called kitchen midden.

We are developing our own Kitchen Midden right on our kitchen table. I now understand why the ruins of previous settlements are lower than the present settlements . . . it is the accumulation of debris. There may not be bones or broken dishes in our Midden but there is stuff. No matter how often I clear off the table, soon there is a pile of stuff. When I put the place mats on for a meal, I pile the stuff up and it just grows and grows. There are piles of stuff, not only in the kitchen but in the study and in the bedroom and in the living room and everywhere. When company comes, there is a flurry of cleaning up and the stuff is stuffed elsewhere. Mmmm complains that the reason his room is so messy is because he has to quickly remove the stuff and put it into his room.

It isn’t only Mmmm, I am equally guilty but somehow my stuff seems to me to be more valuable that his stuff. Right now the stuff in the study is mostly books and pictures and papers and - - -stuff. One of the joys and curses of teaching a class is that people give you - - -stuff. They want to thank you for whatever they are getting from your teaching and they give you stuff. I taught in one way or another for about 36 years and I have 36 years of stuff. When you have an only child, there is a finite place to unload stuff.

Mmmm and I are both children of the depression so we save things thinking that you never know when you will need it, and we often do. I also grew up on a farm where both my father and mother repaired and fixed things using stuff they had saved. I can, in my mind’s eye, still see packages from my mother arriving neatly tied with string that has been tied together. “Waste not, want not,” was a motto in our households. You put a tablespoon of peas in the refrigerator to use for the next meal, you carefully folded Christmas paper to use next year, you straightened bent nails and used them again, you thought of other uses for items. One of the magazines I get has a whole section called New Uses For Old Things. We have done that for years!

And so we collect. Sometimes we think that our children will want our stuff but probably not. I remember when we were all helping Mother move into a retirement center. She was quite hurt when none of us seemed to want her old, worn, patched sheets. She had so carefully cut them down the middle and sewed the outsides together and patched little holes in them. Of course what we didn’t realize was that what she was preserving was a lifetime of memories and hopes and dreams. Our stuff will look like stuff to our children but it too, is full of memories and hopes and dreams.

previous ~ home ~ next