Creatures of Habit

I have a favorite pair of sweatpants that I’ve owned since the Precambrian period. They’re a tired shade of gray, with barely a suggestion of the navy lettering that once graced its cottony surface. American Eagle Athletic Department, I think, is stamped there—even still.

Of course, they’re shamefully dilapidated, torn and tattered beyond all repair. My mother-in-law, master seamstress and sock darner extraordinaire, dug deeply into her repertoire of needle-and-thread-ish miracles time and again to patch them up and to make them whole—or at least presentable. Sometimes she succeeded. Sometimes not. Mostly she just shook her head; dismayed by my stubbornness and astonished by my inability to recognize when something had long since passed its prime.

Then again, I have trouble in the produce aisle.

I must admit, most would be embarrassed to be seen with me, clad in such disgraceful toggery, kneecaps naked to the world. What am I saying? MY DOG is embarrassed to be seen with me. But the stupid things have charm. They have character. And they possess that deliciously intangible quality of familiarity. Slipping into said fleeciness in the dead of winter or even during a cool summer’s eve feels comfortable and oh-so-right—like the warmth of a lover’s arms, the refuge of a mother’s embrace, the company of an old friend. And on those rare occasions, when I entertain the notion of trading them in for something shiny and new, I feel nothing less than the shame of betrayal. The ignominy of sin.

Simply put, I cannot bear the thought of parting with my cherished garb; although my rational left-brained self knows better. The wretched things need to be ditched. Out with the old. In with the new.

I suppose I’m no better or worse than anyone else who has ever been mired in denial, inextricably attached to that-which-is-worn-and-weary. We all have issues of a similar sort. Some are just more debilitating than others. That being said, my husband refuses to chuck any of his shabby, old T-shirts, which are perhaps some of the most pathetic examples of apparel on the face of the earth (second only to my sweatpants). Indeed, he lovingly deems those prized entities as something far from archaic. “They’re seasoned,” he defends. “Broken-in like a good leather ball glove.” He won’t dispose of his stinking water shoes either, which now sport portholes through which his toes protrude freely—a hideous sight to behold. Oddly enough, the man owns another pair. Brand spanking new ones with nary a defect. He bought them because he knew it was time for a change, only he couldn’t follow through.

Needless to say, dysfunction doesn’t fall far from our family tree. Eccentricity flourishes under this roof and there is rarely a day without someone hoarding something that ought not to. Ratty toothbrushes, wadded-up Band-Aids (Oh, the horror!), rocks of all shapes and sizes, discarded scraps of paper, foolish tripe harvested from the floor of the school bus or from any number of classrooms. And the list goes on; but whenever I attempt to rid my world of such idiocy, my brood shrieks in protest, “Why do you want to take away our memories, Mom?! That stuff is special to us!”

And the stockpiling circus continues. But the most bizarre item yet to be

squirreled away and vehemently defended has been a brown paper sack for which a certain eight-year-old developed a crippling affinity. The bag itself was quite ordinary with regard to its form and function, however when its tour of duty surpassed the bounds of reasonableness (a month, maybe?), that’s when I hit the ENOUGH ALREADY button. “I can’t keep patching these damn holes with tape!” I muttered to no one. “I’m not running a fricking triage center!” (Read: I have taped tape on top of tape, AND IF I HAVE TO TAPE ANYMORE, I’m going to light myself on fire).

Of course, we own roughly a bazillion perfectly wonderful bags WITHOUT CAVERNOUS HOLES that have been at my daughter’s disposal since early September. Bags begging to be toted to school…eager to be personalized with her scribbles and scratches…hankering for the opportunity (tedious though it might be) to house THE EXACT SAME SNACK each and every day from now till eternity. Grok!

“But I like my bag. And my teacher likes my bag. She thinks the doggies I drew on it are pretty. I’m keeping it for-ever and EVER! And the little holes are cool, too, because they let me peek inside to see what I have for my snack.” Are you forgetting, my dear child, that you ask for the VERY SAME THING every damn day?! For the love of God, you already KNOW what’s inside!

Not surprisingly, she forbid me from applying duct tape to the massive and multiple tears (tempting though it might have been), because that would negate the whole peeking-at-the-stupid-snack dealie. She then insisted that I use see-through mailing tape to repair it.

And made me promise not to trash her beloved bag. Ever.

And because I’m nothing but a pansy, that’s exactly what I did. I perished the thought of using duct tape and I vowed to never dispose of her ridiculous sack—so as not to hoist my Horrible Mommy flag any higher.

Likewise, I keep the wailing and gnashing of teeth at bay by letting said disturbingly-obsessed-with-sameness creature kiss her toenails “goodbye” before I trim them. Seriously. She does this. A la Scarlett O’Hara-inspired drama, this strange child of mine delivers a teary-eyed farewell to each and every nail as if sending them off to war or to the gallows or something equally horrible.

What a weirdo.

She’ll probably wind up darning socks for a living and sharing a shack with 37 cats, 12 dogs and an ill-mannered parakeet—imprisoned, of course, by the mounds of rubbish she could never bear to throw away.

It’s also likely I’ll be buried in my sweatpants.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with my infinitely eccentric brood).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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