My mother-in-law's "hoarder" frequently collided with my "pitcher". She was incredibly skilled at storing pieces of paper, batteries, hair clips, and a myriad of other knick knacks in boxes and tins and putting them into bigger boxes and tins, which she stored in paper and plastic bags. Her closet, table, and chest of drawers exhibited ingenious ways of saving everything! Once I found treasured family photos covered in sugar inside an empty cereal box. Hand on hip, I asked her what she was thinking. She dismissed the question but gave me express instructions to save the box!
Ribbons and wrapping paper were her favorite. In her younger days she braided her hair with shiny black ribbons and as she became cognitively frail, she wanted as many ribbons as she could get her hands on - dozens of ordinary strings, gift wrapping ribbons and balls of wool surrounded her.
As for me, It is safe to say I am on the opposite end of the spectrum from her. Tarun learned a long time ago that if a piece of paper sits on the kitchen counter for more than a couple of days, it ends up in the recycling bin.
The pitcher in me periodically crept into her room when she napped to clean out the "junk". She would wake up startled and sternly ask what I was doing. Nothing, I would say, just reorganizing. I'd wait for her to fall asleep before tiptoeing out with bags of recycling and trash.
Her hoarding was a frequent source of distress in the kitchen where both of us learned to coexist many years ago. She wouldn't pitch anything and I wouldn't save anything that looked like I wouldn't use it again. Little piece of ginger...toss. A lone clove of garlic...pitch. She would neatly wrap these in cling wrap before I got to them and hide them in the fridge. When I eventually found these bundles, I would promptly shepherd them to the trash. She would tease me about being reckless and I would snidely tell her it isn't World War II and there is no rationing.
Then, my arrogance met the SARS-CoV2 microbe and was locked down.
Now, as I stand in the kitchen, the pitcher in me has been banished. The hoarder is firmly squatting. And my mother-in-law is rolling on heaven's floor laughing.
Stranded by the gnarly bug, I am saving everything!! A sliver of dried up lime might come in handy when I make guacamole next. I am snacking on two potato chips at a time to make it last. And we are portioning main meals with precision.
Kinda seems like....rationing during a war?!
After Mother passed, I cried when I opened the top drawer of her dresser. In her final days, she had mustered strength to organize the contents into neat rows of boxes inside boxes. After decades of tussling with me, she knew that the way to save her treasures was to line them up neatly. I choose to believe it was her way of forgiving me for my sharp tongue and validating my eccentricity when she knew I'd be at my lowest.
I miss Tarun's mother every day, but this lockdown makes me truly appreciate the thing that drove me nuts about her. What I call hoarding was the essence of her frugality.
Beware my kids: the next rainy day maybe 40 years away but your mom is now your grandma. I know how much you loved her and that gives me hope for what's to come once we are past these surreal times.