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Small Wonders: A mournful goodbye to the trash

July 29, 2011|By Patrick Caneday

Last summer we had a death in our house. Two, actually.

First a goldfish. Then my garage refrigerator. Both were mourned with much wailing and weeping. But I still miss the latter to this day.

That loyal fridge graciously held my frozen steaks, extra gallons of milk and all the leftover beer and sodas from every backyard gathering. She was like my own personal Handy Market, which may be why I had such a hard time letting her go.

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Unlike the goldfish, I never gave the fridge a proper burial. I simply let her sit in the garage in the place her motor ceased to operate. The embalming consisted of cleaning out her rotting contents; then I merely unplugged her and buried her behind stacks of boxes and toys.

But she was still there in the deep recesses of my garage, and I knew it.

So, in a recent rare fit of housecleaning, I decided it was time to say goodbye. I made arrangements for the city to pick up the bulky-item carcass the next scheduled trash day.

On trash day’s eve, I exhumed the body and wheeled her down the driveway to a peaceful patch of grass between sidewalk and curb and paid my last respects. In that twilight hour, doorless and exposed, all I saw was an empty shell. A vessel. A jar not of clay but metal, Styrofoam and plastic. And memories. Memories of things gone by that I can no longer taste or control.

As I walked away, I tried not to think about it because, well, that's what we do when we don't know how to handle something we're feeling. Besides, the kids needed dinner.

Not 20 minutes later, a truck pulled up and stopped in front of my fridge. No city truck, but one of those tumbledown wagons that blend into the world largely unnoticed. Dented with chipped paint; piled high with lamps, chairs and mismatched cushions; a microwave precariously perched atop bald tires; bristle-less brooms and bent rakes pointing heavenward; and an unused weight bench that may have been mine long ago.

All of it was lashed down under a ripped and fluttering tarp, held in by aching bungee cords and retired jump ropes.

And duct tape. Always duct tape holding one headlight in place so the driver can see where he's going as he navigates the fringe of our lives scavenging what we cast off. Anything we’re willing to kick to the curb.

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