Saturday, November 25, 2006

Waving the White Flag

You may remember that I cleaned out the freezer while Mom was gone to Illinois to visit her sister. I got rid of three huge trash bags of food - steaks and chops and roasts and chicken and vegetables and bread loaves and various kinds of potatoes and ice cream - items all far past their "sell-by" date. When Mom came home, the freezer was clean, empty and unplugged. We had a polite discussion about it, with me insisting that the freezer should not function as the "black hole" of food storage, into which things disappeared, never to be seen again.

Mom is like the squirrels that bury walnuts in the back yard, then forget where they have stashed their hoard. Very likely, Mom and the squirrels are motivated by the same innate need for security, in other words, having provisions put back for a rainy day. The only difference is that there is a natural reason for the squirrels' behavior, as it helps the walnut trees perpetuate their species. There is no such rationale for Mom's actions, unless you consider the molecules of freezer burn as on par with baby walnut trees.

My dad used to say about my mother that when it came to arguing, "she's like a termite; she undermines from within". He stated this with resignation, a warrior who had lost many a battle against the peace-nik. What he meant was that Mom hates head-on confrontation. She will never just take you on, even when she vehemently disagrees with your position. Instead, she is the voice of polite reason. She very seriously considers your side and allows as how you could be correct. But if you know her, as I have known her for 60 years, you know the war is far from over. This is only her opening gambit.

This is what she did with the freezer. "Yes," she said, "I think you're right. In fact, we probably ought to just sell it. It is only the two of us now and we don't really need a freezer."

"Well, Mom, " I responded. "You bought it, so it's your decision. I don't really care to keep it as long as we don't fall back in the habit of stuffing it full of things we never end up using."

(You notice how I used the term "we" in order to sound cooperative although I doubt I've ever contributed even $10 worth of stuff to the freezer.)

"No, I think we should probably just get rid of it. It will give us more room on the back porch."

"Well, all right, then."

So, it sat there on the back porch, not running. Every now and then, I asked Mom if she'd called the paper to put an ad in yet about selling it but she always said, "not yet, but I'm going to."

Then we were within a couple weeks of Thanksgiving. I asked her if she was going to get a turkey breast, which is what we always have for Thanksgiving since a whole turkey is too big for the four of us and no one will eat anything but white meat. Sadly, she replied, "well, Krogers (or Lo-Bill or Bechtol's) had them on sale but I didn't go ahead and buy one."

"Why not?" I asked, somehow knowing I was being set up.

"I didn't have any room to keep it frozen until Thanksgiving."

"You don't think we could make room in the freezer in the refrigerator?"

"No, its clear full. So, I guess I'm just going to have to wait until the very last minute. Of course, by then, I may not be able to get a turkey breast. Well, that's okay." She smiled brightly. "We'll just have something else for Thanksgiving, maybe a nice pork roast."

"Mom," I said, "I love roast pork but I don't want it for Thanksgiving! I want turkey!"

She just looked at me until I said exactly what she knew I would say.

"You know, Mom, maybe we should keep the freezer."

"Well, Honey, if you really think so. That way I could go out and buy a turkey breast and have some place to put it until Thanksgiving." She paused. "So, do you want me to go plug it in so it can start getting cold?"

"Go plug it in. But, Mom, let's just not cram it full of stuff we don't use again, okay?" I said, a little desperately, knowing I was waving the white flag of surrender.

"Oh, no," she said, "I absolutely agree."

One good thing about Mom is that she is always gracious in victory.