Monthly Archives: August 2011


The compost bucket, which is made of metal, stayed out all night to air out. When I picked it up yesterday morning, a pale orange slug adhered it its side. I eased the slug with a fingernail onto the wet grass and carried the bucket inside. There I rinsed out it, both the bucket and the lid, which is not flat but has an inner ring designed to hold a filter. As I flushed water through the lid, a second, smaller orange slug slipped out and splashed into the disposal.

Dilemma. Reach in and save the slug amid the lemon rinds and eggshells? Kill it quickly? I turned away, haunted by my reluctance to rescue it as I knew I should. Once things fall into the disposal they seem lost in a dark wet underground misted over with decaying soap bubbles. What would it do there? Could it slip somehow through the teeth and wash into the river?

I was wrong to leave it there, but I did, neither killing it promptly nor padding around amid the blades for it. I left for work. I told no one.  That evening, as we were preparing dinner, Ellen threw a squeezed-out lemon into the disposal and flipped the switch on. Murderess.


Give It Away

Confronted with a need to dispose of some possessions in order to make enough room to live, I found myself debating whether to give away my father’s old tape recorder. Few things still attach him to me and I was tempted to keep the recorder as tangible evidence of his presence. But I realized I would never use it, that it was a fantasy to imagine I would make another recording with it and the recorder was a pretty stupid way to hold onto my father. I gave it away.

I was sensitive to the issue because earlier this summer I had, hastily and thoughtlessly, given away a huge antique dresser that had belonged to my father. The dresser was too big for me and seriously in the way, and I offered it to a young man who does fix-it-up work for us and had just gotten divorced, leaving all his furniture behind. Foolishly, I revealed to one of my sisters that I had given the dresser away, with the result that she became very angry with me and after a few testy emails, cut off our relationship.Then my other sister wrote to ask, did I still have my father’s bicycle, which I had given away years before because it was too big for me. I had the sense that my sisters were trying to stay in contact with our father through things he had owned and if so, I knew where they were coming from.

It’s hard to want things you can no longer have. My brother, for example, owns a large house on Nantucket which, when I was married, I was invited to regularly, for weeks at a time. Thirteen years have passed since I have been there. I have never been invited back, although my sons are, regularly. I broke something in them in breaking my own life, I guess. So here we are, my sisters wanting scraps of my father that I no longer possess and me wanting to be restored to a space I once loved.

Friends, someone once said, are God’s apology for families.