Storage Locker


My husband and I finally cleared out our storage locker this week.

When we moved to Charleston, there was just too much to fit into the tiny antique house we bought, so we paid for a cube of space to store the stuff we didn’t use every day. When we bought a slightly larger antique house this year with an attic that could hold most, if not all, of our stuff, we knew it was time to face the storage locker.

Cue the metaphors.

We had saved things from our old lives that we thought might re-emerge in our new lives. Just-in-case folding chairs from years of watching our daughter play soccer, enough for a tribe of soccer fans we never had and never will. A Total Gym in case we turn one of our precious few bedrooms into a workout room. Art from an office I’ve retired from, in colors that seemed right then but seem too loud in the water-softened South Carolina air. Business papers from relatives dead for years, the ink faded and the paper soft with damp.

And so many photographs, stuffed carelessly in boxes, their edges curling now. Images of my daughter as a saucer-eyed baby slide over images of her as a hip-jutting teen. Images of us in lives we no longer lead.

Some we dumped in a nearby dumpster. Some we donated to thrift stores that benefit animals or children. The photographs and a few other things, we kept for later.

And now, as the week, and the year, wind down, our living room is cluttered with boxes, stern reminders to sort through our lives. We are tripping over boxes because my husband has made the rule: nothing gets hauled upstairs until it has been sorted.

So, I am going to take the physical reminder as a metaphorical one. It is time to sort through my emotions and memories, keep the ones I truly cherish, and just let go of the ones that don’t fit who I am now.

Happy new year, my friends!

junk boxes

Magic Pies


“The TSA agents are going to pull you aside and wrestle you to the ground,” my husband says.

“Don’t care. I’m packing it.”

My husband shakes his head and walks away, something he does often when I am what he calls “unreasonably stubborn.”

The “it” is my mother’s rolling pin. I have been asked to make the holiday pies at my in-laws this year and I refuse to do it without my mother’s rolling pin.

“But my sister will have a rolling pin! Or we can buy one when we get there.” My husband tries to reason with me.

“Not the same. I’m packing it.”

Another head shake.

My mother made pies for every special occasion. My father spurned birthday cakes in favor of my mom’s pear pie. I favored the apple, rich with cinnamon and butter, carefully pulling the top crust off to eat the filling first, and saving the flaky crust top, bottom, and magical fluted edge for last and best.

The tops of the pies were beautiful, little tableaux of interlocking leaves or flowers, my mother’s artistry in pastry. Not that Mama’s pies would win any contests. They were made with Crisco, no fancy butter or lard. They were a little heavy on the crust-to-filling ratio at our family’s request. She had an instinctive touch for how much water to add, for how long she could handle the dough before it got tough. And she could roll the dough evenly, no lumps or bumps, to fit the pie plate exactly.

Her pies were magic.

When Mama died almost three years ago, the pie-making fell to me. Her rolling pin came to me as well. I have experimented with chilling the dough, using butter instead of vegetable fat, throwing the ingredients into a food processor. I have personalized my own crust recipe.

But the one constant is the rolling pin. Seasoned with oil and years of holiday pies, the rolling pin creates the perfect crust. It’s like having my mother’s hands guiding mine to smooth the dough.

I won’t make a pie without it.

Wizards have their wands. For my magic pies, I have my mother’s rolling pin. I’m packing it.

Pauline Pie 6-2-09





No Ugly Sweaters


We got the inevitable holiday invitation…did we want to come to an ugly sweater party?


Nope. Nope, we do not.


My husband’s reasons are his own, but mine have to do with the fact that I’m tired of ugly as funny. An ugly sweater just tells the world you are so cool that you wear ugly in an ironic fashion, as opposed to those poor clueless people who wear reindeer-emblazoned knit without irony. I’m not amused; in fact, I’m a little appalled that, in a country where some can’t even afford any sweater, we think it funny to buy one just to make fun of.


In fact, I’m kind of tired of all the ugly.


The shouting on talk radio that pretends to be funny instead of just coarse and mean-spirited. The smarmy sorry/not sorry attitude of the entitled. The ugly politicians riding high in the polls for their hateful rhetoric. And, on a larger scale, the ugly that leads someone to take a gun to anyone who is different from the shooter.


It’s all ugly for its own sake.


Contrast that with the ugly Grinch (and, yes, I watched it yet again this year). The Grinch is a truly terrible creature – oh, that poor dog! But, by the end, the Grinch understands that love conquers ugly.


So, no ugly sweaters for me. There’s enough ugly around already.


Ugly sweater