IT WAS A HOT FUDGE MILK SHAKE.
When we stay in one place for a long time, memories embed themselves in odd places. I know where I was and what I was wearing ten years ago last Sunday, who I was with, and what we did, because this is Big Trash Week.
In this town and the town before, Big Trash Week happens twice a year. We all drag the big things (that Goodwill won’t take) to the curb, with hope that someone with a pickup truck takes the Big Trash away for reuse before the actual trash truck arrives in the morning. Smart scavengers begin prowling early, to get the best selection. Anything between the sidewalk and the curb is fair game, a free shopping spree for anyone willing to put pride aside and dive in.
This spring, I neither put out nor picked up anything from the street. I have a Jeep. I could have picked. I have a big, strong boyfriend. I could have put.
This spring is different because while I do have many things that I don’t need, I don’t need anything that I don’t have. Got that? I won’t go looking. A chair might see me, a softie for a lonely single creaky seat, and want to come home with me.
It’s like visiting a shelter just to pet the kittens. No.
In spring, ten years ago, I cruised for furniture with a friend. She had just left her husband, rented a big-to-her house, and didn’t have enough places to sit. I’d given her the world’s ugliest sofa-bed, a kitchen table, and six chairs. Her daughter already had my grandma’s day bed and a new mattress, and she had a great mattress of her own and one dresser. In one afternoon, we found an antique dining room table, two dressers, a clean rug, a desk, a bed frame for her very tall son, and the cutest little loveseat and two matching tiny chairs. Those were orange and yellow cut velvet, and I was powerfully pregnant.
We celebrated her freedom and mine. She had a lease and first and last months’ paid rent, and wouldn’t live in a trailer any more. I had two more months or so until my belly finished cooking up a real live baby. That Sunday afternoon, we were broke women on a mission.
It was a grand day. I wore my favorite floor-swishing sun dress and a big straw hat to balance out the belly. We loaded my tiny station wagon to bursting, then tied some more on top. What didn’t fit, I guarded on the curb so that no one else would claim her treasures. Try arguing with a fat pregnant woman sprawled on three pieces of tiny velvet lady-furniture with a milkshake and The National Enquirer. Only one man did. All I had to say was, “Nope. Already mine.”
I am shameless when duty calls. Ask about my parking-space-saving techniques sometime.
My friend lived in her perfect house for three years, and then everything went to hell and into a storage unit. The stored stuff was later sold or carried off or stolen, no one really knows. When I found out that she was far behind and locked out, I paid the bill, but too late. The manager of the storage lockers had sent letters, and she had not sent rent. That’s something we know.
Spring Big Trash always makes me think of my friend, her new freedom that spring and her later losses, and the joy of free stuff for an empty house.
I hope she’s doing well. I hope she remembers, too.