Grandma’s Pantry


I unlocked the front door and thrust my shoulder into the wood to unstick it from the frame.  I entered with caution and unease because it wasn’t my house.  Although aware that no person would greet me, I remained wary of the memories that would no doubt sneak up on me and exploit my weaknesses.

With a deep breath, I smelled the stale air.  The scent of age hung in the warmth, which had been trapped inside by the locked windows and doors.  The house, uninhabited for years, possessed a certain kinship that lurked beneath the oldness.  I stopped for a moment, my eyes taking in the familiar flowered sofa and loveseat, the filled china hutch, and the painted porcelain birds sitting on the end table, just as they sat on the same table in three different houses during my lifetime.

I exhaled a heavy sigh and shook my head.  I had a job to do.  Memories and nostalgia would only make the task worse.  I walked past the kitchen and took a sharp left to the laundry room and pantry.  I scanned the pantry shelves, sizing up my opponent.  Formidable, but not impossible, I determined.

One by one, I plucked cans from the shelf, dropping them into black plastic bags.  At times, I stopped to check the dates.  Green beans, expired January 2010; cooking oil, best purchased by November 2007; and an opened bag of chips with guaranteed freshness until May 17.  Of what year, I don’t know.  All of it, along with the leaking cans of tomato sauce, went into bags.

I stacked the multiple opened rolls of cling wrap next to each other on a shelf.  I did the same for the Reynold’s Wrap, wax paper and assorted sizes of Ziploc baggies.  I wondered if the stockpile was intentional, or if Alzheimer’s made each purchase seem necessary.  I slid obviously used-but-recycled baggies into the trash.  My throat tightened, but I reminded myself:  I have a job to do.

Sadness enveloped me, brought on by the disparity between what I saw in front of me and the memories of my grandma’s pantry.  As a child, I could always find something sugary and tempting in the cabinets.  Shelves were stocked and ready to feed anyone who walked through my grandparents’ front door.  She loved food; so much so, that she became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers.  No one ever left her house hungry, except by choice.

I tied the bulging bags closed and surveyed the sparsely filled shelves.  All perishable food, which had perished long before that day, was removed.  What remained were stock pots, small appliances, dishes, and memories.  I wanted to mourn the emptiness in my heart, carved by all that was gone, but remembered that she stood with Jesus and Grandpa now.

That last thought could have been what kept the tears at bay.  Or maybe it was the realization that the spice cabinet was full.  After all, I had a job to do.

It Must Be Love…

I got stuck this weekend on a mystery short story that I’m writing for a contest that has an 11/1 entry deadline.  I knew the basic structure of the story, but the location gave me some trouble.  I needed the story to take place in Scottsdale, but I had to represent two different sides of Scottsdale – the glittery, “rich” side that the city is well-known for, and the not-so-nice areas that people don’t often talk about.  My problem?  I don’t frequent the area so I didn’t have a good picture of it in my mind.  I did online research, but couldn’t put the pieces together in my head.  I wrote around it, but felt like my story was vague.  I needed a few relevant details to make it authentic.

I gave it up on Friday night (Saturday morning, I guess) around 1:00 AM and went to bed.  My husband made a usual comment about me writing “till all hours of the night,” to which I gave him my normal, grumpy, “when else do I have time to write?”  I mentioned my location problem and warned him that I’d need to pick his brain the next day.

Saturday morning, I woke up at 6:30 AM to my children fighting.  Well, okay, I slept through the fighting.  I woke up when the younger one burst into our room to tattle on the older one.  Then my older son pushed the younger one out of the way to defend himself and tattle on the younger one, in a much louder voice to be sure he was heard.  Then the younger one had to yell louder, etc.  (Note to self: wear headphones and lock door before going to bed.)

My husband got them out of the room while I pretended to be asleep.  But really, who could sleep through that?  He ushered them out of the room and locked the door (a little late) and crawled back in bed. 

Neither one of us could sleep, so we started talking about our day.  He asked about my location problem (he doesn’t listen to me during the day, so I was duly impressed that he remembered this when he was half-asleep.)  I explained my lack of vision of the area and he suggested a drive to south Scottsdale with a tour of some iffy areas, as well as a drive up Scottsdale road to the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch (where some of my story occurs.)

Hyatt Regency - Gainey Ranch Casita

On Sunday, after church, we made an afternoon of it.  I got pictures and notes of our drive, the boys got to try a sandwich shop we’ve talked about going to for months now, and I took home the wonderful feeling that even though my hubby doesn’t understand my “writing thing” and sometimes doesn’t make it easy for me, he does support it in his own little way.

How do your friends/family support (or not support) your writing adventure.  I’d love to hear your stories!

Fiction Scene Idea – Stolen from Real Life

Lizzie (not Borden, I hope)
Blood thirsty attack cat

Scenes in a novel, or even an idea for a novel, can stem from everyday life.  For the following example, I would like to thank my son’s cat, Elizabeth (Lizzie) for trying to kill me this morning.  (Okay, I exaggerated that accusation; she only aimed to break my neck.)

This assault came at a time when I’ve been thinking about scenes in my next book – mainly things that could happen to someone having an awful day.  

Lizzie weaved between my feet as I walked to the kitchen.  I sidestepped her each time, until she introduced a new maneuver:  she stopped and laid down!  To avoid crushing her (and subsequently having to explain her demise to my son), I stumbled over myself and fell into the wall, muttering something about a “stupid cat.”

Here’s where the light bulb came on.  My character (Lee) tells her friend about her bad day, where several things go wrong, including the admission that even her cat tried to kill her.  Of course,  when  Lee gets to the part about the cat’s murder plot, the friend thinks she’s crazy,  which is another part of the story.*  

I have to go now.  Lizzie is staring at me with a smirk on her face, and I’m sure she’s ready to finish what she started this morning…

* I can’t say why this is important to the story, or hint at what the story is about, because I’m paranoid that someone will use my idea and do it better!  And of course I’m sane and rational because I’ve figured out my son’s cat is out to get me.