The problem was the mustard.
There were so many of them. There was the stone ground mustard, half-empty, and the spicy horseradish mustard (only a dollop left,) the tangy sweet honey mustard, and the unopened wasabi mustard.
I imagine I felt luxurious when I splurged on wasabi mustard, not knowing when I might use it but deciding something that exotic could find a place in my life. It was something small to make me feel better on the day I bought it and tucked it away.
When I began emptying the contents of the refrigerator to do a thorough cleaning, I threw away lots of things but for some reason the bottles of mustard didn’t make it into the trash in the “first round” of clean up.
In the second round, I dug deeper into the back of the shelves, determined to rid myself of orange marmelade, blackberry jam, and a bottle of olives whose origins were questionable. They all surrendered without argument.
But then, the elderberry jam didn’t want to be tossed aside casually. I bought it in Amish country amongst the Pennsylvania farmlands and it represented a happy memory. I tried to open the jar to smell the contents – but the lid had merged on a molecular level with the jar. It was no use: scent memories of elderberry jam were not forthcoming: Amish hands wasted their precious time on me. The bottle went into the trash.
I looked askew at the mustards. They were coyly hanging back in a door shelf, huddled together trying to look anonymous and in their proper place. But it was no use, I had to look at the dates to see how much of my past was stalking me in my refrigerator.
“Best used by Dec 12 08” one of the jars said.
How have I not noticed you needed to be thrown away before now, I asked?
You just couldn’t, it said. I’m part of your past, the past where you made sandwiches that needed spicy but sweet honey mustard to comfort you. You couldn’t toss me aside.
One by one, the mustards filed past me into the garbage can.
The wasabi mustard was particularly angry. You didn’t even taste me, it accused. You brought me home, you took me with the best of intentions, and now you’re just going to put me in the trash? What kind of person are you?
I had to think about it. What kind of person am I? The kind that buys 7 varieties of mustard and uses a few of them, then leaves all the mustards on the door for years, neglected, unused and unlooked at. It was downright cruel.
Now my refrigerator is nearly empty. A fresh container of salad greens is sitting alongside scallions, radishes and cucumbers. An unopened bottle of diet cola beverage waits patiently, knowing it will find its rightful place.
There is no ketchup.
No barbeque sauce.
No orange marmelade.
And no elderberry jam.
Now, there are no bottles of mustard either. Their shelf is empty, but their memory remains.