"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Cleaning Out The Social Basement –The Moral Of Unnecessary People

The Frogmores' basement was a disaster – old files, broken boxes, hammers without nails, dead fuses, mousetraps, cracked potties, dog hair, and rags.  “It’s time to get rid of it all”, said Marcie Frogmore. “I’m sick of looking at it”, and with that they threw a ton of trash in the dumpster.

Image result for images overflowing dumpster

Bob Frogmore was the more nostalgic when it came to memorabilia – a second grade clay ashtray, Billy’s Honor Camper cup, a science fair prize winning diorama, and his old football – but his wife was unmoved. Everything had to go.  There could be nothing of value in this hellish repository of long irrelevant items.

“What will we do with an empty basement?”, Bob asked; yet the idea of a cellar of junk, growing and spreading until there was no longer a path in or out, so willy-nilly had worn carpets, frayed shirts, unhinged suitcases, and wireless heating pads been thrown into the mess.

The bottom of boxes near the entrance were soggy and mildewed from the last flooding, now inaccessible lightbulbs were broken and out, and the back, wet, crumbling and chipped mortared cement wall was visible only when sunlight hit the window in just the right way.  The question of empty space was irrelevant and a nuisance. Once Marcie got something into her head, there was no rest until it had been settled and done with.

Yet for some reason this wholesale cleansing of the basement, the complete removal of anything and everything regardless of sentimental or practical value struck a strange chord in Bob.  Perhaps it was the way the past – for that was how he looked at what his wife and dismissed as ‘junk’- had been so summarily tossed out.  

There was something wrong about a wholescale dumping, not a second thought given to memory, no concern for the bits of the remindful – or perhaps it was a vengeful retort to his wife’s doggedness and cemented practicality; but come to think of it, his social register needed as much of a clean sweep as the basement.  There were friends who had piled up over the years and had long since lost any interest.  It might be high time to get rid of them too. 

What was the point of the Nibletts, for example, a couple who had both started off innocently enough – babies, children, K Street jobs and travel – but their social vision had gone bad in the past few years.   Pot roast dinners were turned sour by slavery and systemic racism, the place of women, and the plight of poor immigrants.  Wasn’t it enough that political cant was everywhere?  Why should Bob Frogmore's pot roast be ruined by more drivel over dinner? Why should even two hours once a month be wasted?

Image result for images systemic racism

No matter how he had tried to divert Belinda Niblett from yet another screed on the importance of diversity, educational reform, and social justice, she returned to them with a vengeance.  Her husband sat quietly by while his wife went on about the white man, the black man, and historical recalibration; but couldn’t keep his own bile down, and added a non sequitur here and there, adding anger and blight to the argument but no clarity.

Enough is enough, said Frogmore. Scratch them. 

Then there were the Spewleys who bought and sold houses, moving up, out, and back in depending on the market.  They could be anywhere at any given time – Bethesda, Northwest, Chevy Chase – and were always in a state of moving, remodeling, refinishing, and expanding.  Discussions around their dinner table were all about hardware, plumbing, electrical wiring, wood flooring, high performance ceiling fans, grommets, grouting, track lighting, and garage space.  Their outings were all to Home Depot, Strosniders, Target, and Ace Hardware.  Their boys knew nothing but making, adjusting, and replacing things.

Image result for images hardware aisles

Betty Harrow was a member of three book clubs, all of which discussed historical fiction, the romanticized tales of pioneer wives, Southern belles, Reconstruction refugees, and Revolutionary War heroines.  The books were one cut above dime-a-dozen romantic fiction – the stories of love triangles, unfaithful husbands, and the longing for love and respect that women bought in the millions.  

Betty was so enthused by her clubs and the books they discussed and so convinced that she was becoming more literary, history-minded, knowledgeable every week that she couldn’t stop talking about them.  She banged on over her pasta primavera and turkey tetrazzini about Lassie Bitters, a young woman who, crossing the continent during Westward Expansion, gave birth to triplets and survived to fight the Apaches who greeted them in Colorado; or about Lucinda Proffitt, maid of Abingdon Manor who married a prince.

Image result for images book cover ladies romantic fiction

The Gridders had a private income, lived in townhouse in Alexandria, and talked only about boats, oyster farming (Claude Gridder’s latest hobby), and the invasion of new money in Old Town.  Nancy Gridder’s eccentricities – quirky dress, off-handed referential humor, and love of pewter – had worn thin years ago; but the Frogmores continued to see them for the occasional fondue.  “They have to go”, Bob said.

“We have no friends left”, said Marcie after her husband had drawn a thick black line through the last of the entries in their address book; and despite her appeals to ‘branch out’, find new acquaintances, he demurred.  “Who”, he asked, “do you have in mind?” The next door neighbors who obsessed about parking spaces? The ones across the street who lived with no air conditioning, no salt, no processed foods, and no meat? Or the ones down the block who were hoarders and recluses?

As much as Bob Frogmore had resented his wife’s singlemindedness about the basement, he had to smile at the idea of his parallel dumping; and ironically thanks to her obsession, the future was finally clear sailing without the impedimenta of the Gridders, the Harrows, the Nibletts, and the Spewleys. 

Bob was a happy man.  Thanks to his wife, he had figured out a way to get rid of annoying static and noise, and to pay no attention to anything that didn't matter to him.  Given the amount of static and noise that had been in his life, that was saying something. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.