The leftovers

The depleted cardboard roll bounced on the kitchen counter as the last bit of plastic wrap came off in my hand. I contemplated the empty container, wondering if Philip would enjoy playing with it. I touched the sharp edge meant for cutting off perfect-sized segments. Bad idea, I thought. I tossed the box into the recycling pile.

The remnant wasn’t enough to cover the bowl of leftover spaghetti and meatballs, so I searched for more. I felt anxious as I switched on the pantry light.

Do I have any left? Why don’t I pay attention to these things?

I relaxed when I saw a pair of green cartons on the top shelf. They were stacked beside three boxes of aluminum foil (two unopened) and a partial roll of waxed paper. I grabbed one of the green boxes, tore off what I needed, and pressed the transparent film over the dish of pasta.

I didn’t pay for the plastic wrap. I didn’t buy any of the food coverings on the pantry shelf. I got them from underneath my grandmother’s bed. Raised in the Depression, Grandma believed in stocking up. When we emptied her trailer after moving her into the nursing home, we found things everywhere: cases of canned corn in the closet; jars of fruit in the unused bathtub; unopened mail order blouses in the back of her dresser drawer. While we discarded quite a few things, I rescued the dozen or so boxes of food storage bags, cling wrap, and foil.

I had to start buying my own sandwich and freezer bags a year later, but I’ve moved the other items with me three times. They have outlasted Grandma. We buried her in 2007. When I hold one of these leftover boxes in my hand, I know that Grandma touched the same box. I remember her wrapping cooking dough in waxed paper. I see her lining the bottom of her oven with foil. I picture her saving her leftovers in plastic wrap. I feel a connection to her. The thought of running out saddens me.

As my stockpile recedes, I’ll buy generic, just like Grandma did. I hope the store brands I choose will be as reliable. I appreciate how the plastic wrap doesn’t stick to itself and then shred when I peel the edge free with a fingernail. I like that it doesn’t smell and leave a weird aftertaste on my food like the other off-brands do. It’s sensible and frugal, just like Grandma. Yet, it is the aluminum foil that reminds me of my strong yet loving Grandma the most. The foil isn’t heavy duty, but it is sturdy enough not to split.

One day soon, I’ll go to rip a sheet of that foil to encase a baked potato and discover I’ve reached the perfectly trimmed end. Or, when I need plastic wrap to preserve the three florets of broccoli that I can’t eat, I will go into the pantry and discover that the top shelf is vacant. Then, for the first time in eight years, I will have to buy my own supply of these household essentials.

The empty spot on the shelf will be small compared to the empty spot in my heart.

56 thoughts on “The leftovers

  1. :-/
    It’s funny how such simple things can come to mean so much to us. I bet the thought has crossed your mind more than once to buy your own supply before her’s runs out, so you’ll always have one last piece, one last connection to her. That’s how my mind works anyway.

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    1. See now, I’m not that clever. Thanks for the suggestion!
      Of course, I have the afghan she crocheted and her old bathrobe, too. But since many of my memories are associated with her in the kitchen, these things mean more.

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      1. I have an afghan my grandma crocheted too! It’s hidden away at the moment because the kitties decided it looked like a tasty treat, sadly, but I still have it. I also have the records and record player she loved. As far as I know the kitties don’t think it looks very tasty, which is good.

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  2. i’m having a rough month– coming up (Thursday) on one year since my grandmother passed. this post and SO MANY I’ve read today remind me of this. it’s crazy when you think about some of the things that spark memories. thank goodness, though.

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  3. I like the idea of you and your grandmother being in the kitchen together, during those moments when you reach for those items.

    I always associate my grandmother with tea, when I have it or someone else does. It makes me smile now.

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  4. ohh you have to just save a box or two forever…or do an art project with it and save it…. i love that you get to handle something so tangible yet telling of hers. it’s like she’s wrapping herself around you. )

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  5. Oh my goodness! This was so beautifully written and flowed without skipping a beat. Touching the same box your grandmother touched!? How perfectly written this is? You have amazed me with this post.

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  6. I love this line! “Yet, it is the aluminum foil that reminds me of my strong yet loving Grandma the most. The foil isn’t heavy duty, but it is sturdy enough not to split.” You are such a great writer.

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  7. My grandmother saved everything too. When we helped her move from her home to an assisted living center, we were baffled by the things she had saved. She was ready to throw out an antique crystal bowl, but asked every granddaughter before discarding her last box of (now vintage) sanitary napkins.

    Loved this post. Can’t wait to read more.

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  8. How awesome it is that you still have your grandmother with you in the kitchen even after her passing. I love this story. It’s so simple, and yet it says so much about you, your grandmother, and how small things can have such a huge emotional role in our lives.

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  9. I love this. The tactile connection to your Grandmother is so immediate. It’s clear you were close to her and I really like how you didn’t judge her for her collections. Wonderful writing as always!

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    1. It’s bittersweet. She was still independent when she bought the items. She drove herself to the store as needed and didn’t have to rely on others. I know having to move into the nursing home was frustrating for her.

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    1. It seems that every post I’ve read since writing this reminds me of my grandma. I obviously needed to write this. When your ready, I’m sure writing will help you explore your feelings, too.

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  10. Oh my gosh, same thing here! When my grandma died, I got random things like her spices and wrapping paper. Three years later, I’m still using the same cinnamon and floral birthday paper…

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      1. Oh yes, I know I’m committing a food faux pas, but it feels like such a waste to throw it out, lol. Grandma would be proud.

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  11. With my grandmother, it was half-empty bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and other bath supplies. She never finished a bottle, but hated to throw anything out. But the thing that always makes me think of her is bicycles. She was a biking fanatic, all the way up until her death in her eighties. I inherited her bike, which felt like a great honor, until I realized I never used it. I hated biking. I ended up giving it to a charity that refurbishes bikes for kids and adults who can’t afford one, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Fast forward to today, and I’m now an avid bike commuter. I guess Grandma rubbed off on me eventually! And now I regret giving up that bike…

    Thanks for the chance to stroll down memory lane. I loved your piece. 🙂

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  12. It’s amazing how powerful memories are attached to such everyday objects. This is beautiful. My dd recently send a bunch of Shark Bites (generic tic tacs). She’d been popping the in her mouth for years but during her last month it got so she couldn’t open them..so I would drop some into her clenched hand. I want so desperately to never open them and hold on to them forever since at one point she held the package in her hands.

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  13. Wow, I thought we were the only ones. My partner and I also have cellophane and cleaning products inherited from loved ones. We still have some Windex from an aunt who passed several years ago, and I do think of her every time I wash the bathroom mirror. What a fun thing to learn from your post that this is a somewhat universal experience.

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