There I stood in our kitchen, with a spatula in my hand.
I turned to my left. I turned to my right.
I did not do the Hokey Pokey, but I did practically turn myself around.
“Where do I PUT this thing?” I said, first to myself and then out loud, even though nobody else was at home.
The occasion was our third day back from two sets of family visits wrapped around an eight-week winter sojourn in Florida, a bit more than two months.
The first day back involved unloading the pickup truck, starting laundry, getting the heat turned up and the water turned back on.
That night, I whined.
We got home at about 6 p.m. April 6, just as big, fluffy white snowflakes began to fall. By about 9 p.m., three inches of snow coated our grassy areas, and the white stuff was beginning to stick on our limestone driveway and the asphalt roadway.
“Why did I come back?” I moaned, recalling the mid-70s temperatures in the sunny South.
My wife was stoic. We were home. It was March. It snows here in March. Let’s go to bed.
Inside my head, a small but insistent voice answered me: “Because you live here, dummy.”
“Dummy” eventually stood in that kitchen, vainly searching for a resting place for a spatula just retrieved from our dishwasher.
I have lived in this house for 13 years. In all that time, the spatulas and other larger-than-silverware cooking utensils have resided inside two crocks adjacent to the kitchen stove.
But in the rental house where we lived for two months, spatulas were to be found inside a drawer next to the kitchen sink, several feet away from the kitchen stove.
Drawer? Crock? Senioritis?
We give our brains much stuff to store in medium-term memory, a mental file that last longer than our recollection of Saturday’s outdoor temperature but not as long as our remembrance of our birthday date.
My unscientific view is that our medium-term memory has one, and only one, slot for “where spatula is stored.” When I asked myself where the spatula was supposed to go, my brain refused to respond with, “in the drawer beside the sink, dummy,” because I reflexively knew that I was no longer in that house. But it could not resynchronize to “spatula=crock, dummy” because I had not yet been home for a long enough time.
What is very funny to me, and is probably very annoying to a sister-in-law, is that after we left Florida and before we returned to Pennsylvania, we spent a few days at that sister-in-law’s home on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina – without her.
During those days, I dutifully discharged my duties with respect to kitchen utensils. My wife cooked, so I handled dishes.
When it came to putting away spatulas, kitchen scissors, measuring cups and the like, I giggled – and then I shoved this into that drawer, that into this drawer, those onto the high shelves, the other stuff atop the lower shelves.
See, my brain’s medium-term memory was not confused as to which of two places should receive the spatula.
I had no clue at all.
My wife had taken the spatula out of wherever it had been, and she was on a bicycle ride. For all I knew, the spatula came out of the garage, or the bathroom. My sister-in-law is a dear woman, but she can be eccentric.
Ask me today, and I don’t have a clue as to where Melora’s spatula might be. I do hope she found it.
Yesterday, when I went out into the garage, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I own a brand-new small propane torch. I bought that torch just before we left for Florida, but on our return, I had no memory of having done that, so I was searching for my old, blue-tank propane torch. It usually takes two or three placements of something new before my brain holds it firmly in medium-term memory. Luckily, the store receipt was nearby, and jogged my memory.
In addition to putting away our kitchen things, I put away our laundry. This, too, is simple division of labor; my wife is better at shopping for groceries, so I put away laundry.
For my clothes, the decisions are not complicated. Socks go with socks. Short-sleeved shirts go with short-sleeved shirts. That’s man stuff.
But my wife has short-sleeved T-shirts, short-sleeved blouses, sleeveless blouses, gauzy half-sleeve thingies that fit over other thingies, V-neck shirts, frilly-lacy shirts – and that does not even get into the long-sleeved clothing.
“Where is my aquamarine overblouse that I bought in Panama City, the one that goes with my teal outfit?”
Umm ... it might be in the crock with the spatula.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org