My Empty Nest

It's not always empty.

Making Reparations

Are you a keeper, a tosser, or a fixer? I'm all three.

The oven door is cracked. I don't know how it happened. I think it was the sea bass broiled with all its spattering oil. The glass outside that lets you see in is intact. The glass inside (that lets you see out?!!) looks like it was hit by a baseball. Maybe the fish was playing catch with the roasting potatoes. The catch of the day made the play of the week. We've never really liked the oven. It's small and slightly temperamental, but we're going to have it repaired, instead of buying a new one. It works just fine for the two of us. We don't plan to move for a few more years. Maybe that will be our sign: when the oven goes, so do we.

Let's face it: the world is divided in two - the savers and the throwers. True you can be a little of both, but mostly you're one of the other. I'm a thrower from way back. So is my husband. Lucky for us. Mixed marriages rarely work. Someone's got to capitulate. My dad was saver, but my mom was more of a tosser. She'd put something out in the trash, and he'd bring it right back in. We need this! He'd exclaim, holding up an old score card from a Dodgers-Giants game. Eventually he accepted the joy of minimalism. But more than a few fights were fought over what should be kept and what shouldn't.

There's another category that can connect the savers and throwers and that's the repairers. The people that like to fix the things that might other wise be tossed. Now there is no fixing a sweater or dress that's ugly and also two sizes too big. But buttons can be sewn back on, and hems can be mended. Lamps can be rewired, though that's best done by a professional. Fixing is good for the soul; it keeps the tendency to toss in check, but for the right reasons. Not for nostalgia, but the desire to not be wasteful.

I love to throw things out; I always have. Sometimes I've regretted my decisions, but never for more than a minute. You not only can't take it with you; you'll run out of room if you try. So I tend to err on the side of good riddance. The trash guys are my knights in white armor. Twice a week they rescue me from clutter. And usually before I have a chance for second thought they've come and gone.

I think I am particularly saving-averse because I have a friend who has an obsessive-compulsive disorder. She keeps everything, - newspapers, trash, old clothing. She cannot throw anything out. Her apartment is almost uninhabitable. I don't have to deal with it or her because she lives across the country. But I know she is imprisoned by her attachment to things. And the thought of it makes me sad; it also makes me empty out the trash cans and the closets in my house.

I've noticed that savers have a tendency to hold on to feelings as well, and usually the bad kind. You know, - anger, regret,self pity, blame.   I think we all could use an emotional dumpster, a place to leave our trashy thoughts. They aren't doing us a darn bit of good. So why not toss them out?

Into this mental garbage disposal I would put all the "shoulda coulda wouldas" I've collected over the years that have to do with raising our kids. I should have been stricter, I could have pushed them more, I would have made them do, I don't know, fill in the blank. The list is endless - and also irrelevant now. A friend of mine likes to say, don't look back: you're not going that way. But if I could go back in time it would not be to yell or pout or stomp my foot. I'd like to say I'm sorry to one or two people that are no longer here. I'd like to go back and be more patient with my kids, especially at the end of the day. But I'm a tosser by nature so I throw those regrets over my shoulder like so much salt and say to myself move on. The kids I'll keep; the missteps I'll forgive - both theirs and mine. And I'll even forgive myself for wiping down the inside glass of the oven door before it had properly cooled. The good news is that just in time for Thanksgiving and for the paltry sum of $75 the glass in the oven door will be replaced and it will be like it never happened. Reparations will be made. Gratitude for a place to roast our turkey will fill the house. But it makes no sense to save what's broken - so fix it or get rid of it.

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Madora Kibbe is a Christian Science practitioner and writer who lives in New York.

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