My Family (a long time ago)

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Box of Nothing

As I went past the kitchenette area where I work, I noticed a box on one of the tables, the kind of box that looks like it holds some kind of treat. It could be cookies, or cake, it doesn’t really matter at 2:00 in the afternoon when something sweet would hit the spot. I put on the brakes and made a quick left into the kitchenette to get something before it was all gone. Yes, it was a bakery box!

I took one last look around to make sure no one was watching, like I was doing something wrong (it must be some kind of learned response from my younger years), opened the box, and…it was empty. Empty! Unless you count a few measly crumbs in the corners of the box, it was empty. What a letdown. I thought I was going to get at least a little sugar energy to help me through the afternoon, even if it was just half a cookie or pastry, or even a sliver of a cake or a pie. I felt like the box was taunting me, laughing at me as I walked away.

Why do people leave an empty treat box sitting on the kitchenette table like that? It’s such a tease and such a disappointment. One minute your imagining yourself eating a piece of chocolate cake, or munching a chocolate chip cookie, or being lucky enough to find even a quarter of a cinnamon bun, and the next you get air. A handful of nothing is what you end up with. I guess if you’re desperate, you eat the crumbs, but I wasn’t. Truth be told, I have too much pride to do that anyway.

I had lots of experience with finding something empty growing up in a big family. I cannot even tell you how many times I came into the house to get a cold drink of water, opened the freezer, and found one ice cube in the multiple trays. I’d take the one ice cube left in the top tray, and go to get another out of the next tray, only to find it empty. Someone actually left an empty ice cube tray in the freezer! If I complained to Mom or Dad about it, they told me it was wrong for someone to do that, but could I fill up both trays so the next guy didn’t get the same problem.

For some reason, my parents insisted on buying the ice cream that has vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry in the same package. None of us really liked strawberry, so when you went to get some cold, refreshing goodness in the summer, the vanilla and chocolate were totally gone, like they were never even there. I know, you’re thinking that the container wasn’t empty, that there was still some ice cream left, however, as far as we were concerned it was empty. None of us kids were going to eat the strawberry ice cream.

Mom also liked to get us the variety pack of cereal with the small boxes, which was great for the first week and maybe the second week. After that the only cereal left was Raisin Bran. I don’t know any kid that would take Raisin Bran over Frosted Flakes, or Sugar Pops, or any other sugar-laden cereal. The Raisin Bran would sit in the cabinet getting stale, unless one of us was desperate enough to take it and pick out all the raisins, throw a couple of spoonsful of sugar on it, maybe some sliced banana, pour in some milk, and only then eat it. That’s how you start your day with a good breakfast!

I could go on. There were 99.99% empty potato chip bags; containers of milk, Zarex, or soda with, at most, a mouthful of liquid left; toilet paper rolls with one square left on them and paper towel rolls with no sheets left on them; boxes of holiday chocolates with the only leftovers the kind that old ladies like (my apologies to all the Grandmothers out there). Letdowns one and all.

Over time, though, these letdowns have faded into the background because over time I’ve learned what is more important, that being family. Tasty treats, ice cream, ice cubes, even toilet paper, won’t always be there, but I know my family will.