I wish I could say I've neglected The Curious Reader because I was breathlessly engaged in composing a searing entry for the short story competition. You know...single-mindedly clacking away at the keyboard...a pencil stuck in my chignon...perhaps two fingers of Scotch in a squat glass at my elbow (NB: imagine here a female version of F. Scott Fitzgerald minus the cigarette smoke blooming from a crystal ashtray). But I cannot.
First, of course, there was Christmas and all the hubub that holiday brings with it. It isn't Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that wear me out. I can handle those. No. The stress of Christmas comes from our seeming inability to resist tinkering with it. Wasn't the first Christmas wonderful enough just as it was? Must we make a "season" out of it? Must we be forced to endure the never-ending commercials showing people giving each other shiny, new cars? White was the favorite color being pushed on us this year. There must be an overrun of white ones in the showrooms. One of these hawksters even managed to suggest we could actually get the automobile into the house (which, by the way, appeared to be an ultra modern mountain lodge with postcard perfect views of snowy vistas just outside its wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows) and then stuff it into a super-sized red Santa stocking. It is enough to put one off fruitcake forever. In any event, Christmas is a busy time.
Further consuming my time was the re-organizing of the kitchen cabinets, drawers and pantry. On that note, I will publish a warning to you - if you do not absolutely need to embark down that road, don't. What began innocently at the utensil drawer spread slowly and insidiously (like the Blob from the 1950s movie of the same name) from shelf to shelf and cupboard to cupboard. It oozed itself toward the pantry and then to the etagere where the pots and pans hang out. I was faced with dilemmas I wasn't equipped to handle in my already delicate holiday-wrought condition. For instance, what does one do with 5 cans of cinnamon? All opened? I vaguely remembered a recipe for Christmas ornaments using obscene amounts of cinnamon mixed with applesauce. I made a heart that hung from a red silk ribbon from that recipe one year and figured I must still have it written down and tucked somewhere. Naturally, this spurned a new mission to find it in the books, and tins, and binders and magazine racks full of recipes and other "things kept" that I (ever hopeful) think might be useful in the future.
The effort of organizing, and arranging, and re-uniting a thing with its parts (cookie press dyes with the cookie press; pasta machine with its crank and the bolt that holds it to the counter top; meat grinder with the little spinning thing that you insert into the round tube that you finally attach to the hub of the KitchenAid, for instance) and then finding homes for everything on fresh shelf liners was exhausting enough. But compounding the enterprise is the angst that comes with admitting, for instance, that the piece that held the blades to the mandolin was lost and would never be found, no matter how long the other pieces sat around, like squatters taking up real estate. Without the lynch pin, the thing was no longer a mandolin. It was junk.
But, oooh, there is always that haunting fear that the lynch pin might...just might...be found somewhere - too late. I recalled holding on to a 14k gold earring for years. Every time I opened my top desk drawer at the office there it was in all its glinty glory. Finally, in a spurt of bravery and blinded by a sudden desire for organization I threw it away. A year later we were moving from our office to new digs, and in cleaning out a "bank box" of papers which was tucked under my desk I found the earring's match. Not only was it a slap the forehead moment, I also felt guilty that I had thrown away something that actually had some intrinsic value (albeit it very little). Nevertheless, clutter is clutter and in my kitchen I whittled it down. Even if I were flying over the Pacific, or sitting on a train bound for Budapest, with the precision of a surgeon I could direct someone to the trussing string sitting in the right rear corner of the second-to-the-right-drawer next to the oven. See? How easy was that! Garlic press? Lemon reamer? Fluted pasta wheel? Go ahead...test me.
It took three days to get all the chaos straightened out. There are still a few bits sitting on the table awaiting final disposition. Among them a small cast iron skillet that is not only a ridiculous size to be of any practical use, but requires the attention befitting a diva. Quite frankly, I want to pitch the rusty little wench. But I'm waffling.
With the holidays behind me, the decorations put away, the kitchen in order, I can't conceive of a reason why I can't throw myself into the short story competition. No excuses come immediately to mind; but, with a little luck I'm sure I can think of something.