The leftovers

The leftovers

The depleted cardboard roll bounced on the kitchen counter as the last bit of plastic wrap came off in my hand. I contemplated the empty container, wondering if Philip would enjoy playing with it. I touched the sharp edge meant for cutting off perfect-sized segments. Bad idea, I thought. I tossed the box into the recycling pile.

The remnant wasn’t enough to cover the bowl of leftover spaghetti and meatballs, so I searched for more. I felt anxious as I switched on the pantry light.

Do I have any left? Why don’t I pay attention to these things?

I relaxed when I saw a pair of green cartons on the top shelf. They were stacked beside three boxes of aluminum foil (two unopened) and a partial roll of waxed paper. I grabbed one of the green boxes, tore off what I needed, and pressed the transparent film over the dish of pasta.

I didn’t pay for the plastic wrap. I didn’t buy any of the food coverings on the pantry shelf. I got them from underneath my grandmother’s bed. Raised in the Depression, Grandma believed in stocking up. When we emptied her trailer after moving her into the nursing home, we found things everywhere: cases of canned corn in the closet; jars of fruit in the unused bathtub; unopened mail order blouses in the back of her dresser drawer. While we discarded quite a few things, I rescued the dozen or so boxes of food storage bags, cling wrap, and foil.

I had to start buying my own sandwich and freezer bags a year later, but I’ve moved the other items with me three times. They have outlasted Grandma. We buried her in 2007. When I hold one of these leftover boxes in my hand, I know that Grandma touched the same box. I remember her wrapping cooking dough in waxed paper. I see her lining the bottom of her oven with foil. I picture her saving her leftovers in plastic wrap. I feel a connection to her. The thought of running out saddens me.

As my stockpile recedes, I’ll buy generic, just like Grandma did. I hope the store brands I choose will be as reliable. I appreciate how the plastic wrap doesn’t stick to itself and then shred when I peel the edge free with a fingernail. I like that it doesn’t smell and leave a weird aftertaste on my food like the other off-brands do. It’s sensible and frugal, just like Grandma. Yet, it is the aluminum foil that reminds me of my strong yet loving Grandma the most. The foil isn’t heavy duty, but it is sturdy enough not to split.

One day soon, I’ll go to rip a sheet of that foil to encase a baked potato and discover I’ve reached the perfectly trimmed end. Or, when I need plastic wrap to preserve the three florets of broccoli that I can’t eat, I will go into the pantry and discover that the top shelf is vacant. Then, for the first time in eight years, I will have to buy my own supply of these household essentials.

The empty spot on the shelf will be small compared to the empty spot in my heart.

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