The Things I Can’t Live Without

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My home is filled with the things I can’t live without. I have spent my entire life carefully picking and gathering together these objects, so that now, in the full radiance of middle-age, I can spend my spare time trying to create a clear path to move from one room to the next, without tripping and breaking my leg. The things I can’t live without seem to fall into five distinct categories:

Things I can’t seem to get rid of. I can’t throw out this stale bag of peanuts, because someone might come to the door who is hungry. Or someone might have a performance art project involving stale peanuts, or some way is discovered to reconstitute stale peanuts, or maybe when the circus comes to town, they’ll let the kids feed them to the elephants. I can’t get rid of half the clothes in my closet that may fit again someday, or that I may need to wear if all my favorite ten sets of clothes are dirty at the same time. Or if someone is visiting and falls in the mud, and happens to be the same size as me and needs to borrow something clean. (This has happened exactly once in the past twenty years.) Or if my wife decides to take up quilting and wants to cut up all my clothes into little patches and then sew them all back together again. I can’t get rid of four jackets in the closet, because nobody knows whose they are. Did our cousins leave them when they were visiting from California? As soon as it’s cold they’ll be looking for them. Or maybe my daughter’s friends left them. It would be irresponsible to throw them out, especially since I know there are probably an equal number of my children’s clothes strewn around their friends’ houses, waiting to be rediscovered. Maybe I should start a lost and found website. I’ll photograph all the unclaimed items laying around my house, and post them on the website, then I’ll send an email to everyone we know telling them to claim their lost items. Heck, this could be a great business. I’ll have the Ebay of Lost and Found. Everyone in the world can post all the crap that someone left in their house, and they’re too guilty to throw away. Hats, gloves, school books, jewelry, sunglasses, sweaty sports equipment, serving bowls, boots. (How can kids leave their boots at someone else’s house? Did they come home barefoot one winter day and nobody noticed?) I’ll post it all on the web and make it disappear from my front vestibule.

Things that are just too precious for words. After three children we have practically an entire room full of teddy bears, dogs, and other cuddly stuffed animals. You cannot disappear a three foot model of Yogi Bear without someone noticing and throwing a fit. Then there are the adorable miniature tea sets, miniature trains, circus programs autographed by David the Clown, Jim Thome bobblehead dolls. And you’re not thinking of throwing away my Flintstone jelly jar glasses, are you?

Modern conveniences that make life simpler. What would life be like without my automatic garage door opener? Not that I need it to open the garage to park my car when I come home, since my garage is already full of hundreds of other things that I can’t live without, that no longer fit into my overflowing house. No, I need my automatic garage door opener to give myself a game to play every time I want to go inside my garage. The game is called, “Where is my automatic garage door opener?” This game is often followed by the game, “If I don’t find that garage door opener soon, I’m going to go crazy!” These are the kind of games that get the whole family sharing and working together. In fact, a lot of our family “quality time” is spent on this sort of modern convenience group activity, the “Where is the cordless phone?” game, “Where is the TV remote?” game, “Where’s my Palm Pilot?” and so on. These are games that we never had the chance to play when we were kids, and our parents didn’t realize that they couldn’t live without all these small, easily misplaced, modern conveniences that one quickly becomes totally dependent on.

Things I wouldn’t want to run out of. A case of microwave popcorn isn’t too much. With all the preservatives in the fake butter, it never goes bad and it makes that membership to the Warehouse Club really pay off. As does the case of canned olives, shelf full of Kleenex, and spare sets of every size battery, lightbulb, film cartridge, detergent, toner cartridge, spare gloves, spare tires, spare computer (I paid $2000 for that thing, not more than three or four years ago), spare TV (I’m sure somebody can fix it), and seven extra sleeping bags (you never know when the Von Trapp family might drop by unexpectedly).

Things I used once and might need again someday. We might need that set of crutches again (actually, we now have them in three different sizes.) Or that ice-cream maker. We might decide we want to make ice cream again the next time our Aunt Betty gets engaged. I’m sure we’ll use that tent to go camping again, if we can ever figure out how to get the skunk smell out. And there’s nothing wrong with the can of flea-dip, even if we haven’t owned a dog for five years. There’s no telling when you might feel like grabbing one off the street and dipping it, just for good measure.

Someday I’m going to carefully sort through all the things I can’t live without, keep what’s really important to me, and give the rest away. And someday my children are going to wash the dishes without me asking. And someday I’m going to find a free parking spot right in front of the entrance to the mall, and I’m going to go inside and find the thing that I can’t live without, on sale at 40% off. I’m going to pick the last one off the sale table, in my color and size, jump up and down with it in my arms, and then… put it back!

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