The other day I was at the grocery store when I got a text from my husband asking me to pick up some fresh thyme for a new soup he was making. As per usual in my Flagstaff shopping experience, the store I was at had several fresh herbs on hand—none of which were thyme. I called my husband to ask if he wanted me to pick up a jar of dried thyme instead, and he said yes, because the stuff we had at home was “really, really old.” It was simple, really: an everyday problem and an everyday solution. Nothing especially frustrating about it. At least there wasn’t until I got home and tried to put the new jar of thyme away: where I wanted to put it there was already a jar of—apparently unusable—thyme in its place.
“What’s this doing here?” I asked.
“That’s the old thyme,” he replied.
“I can see that,” I continued. “But why is it here, and not in the trash?”
“Because it’s yours.”
After a few minutes of puzzled questioning on my part I found out that, apparently, since I was the one who had first brought jars of herbs and spices into our home almost a quarter of a century ago, all future heirs to those original jars now and forever more fall under my purview, to be purchased and disposed of as I see fit.
Unbeknownst to me, they were a part of my dowry. One I had never even realized I possessed.
Upon further reflection, however, the idea of me bringing a secret dowry (secret to me, that is) explained quite a lot about the dynamics in our house. Suddenly I understood that the reason certain household chores always seemed to fall to me and me alone wasn’t because, as I previously believed, my husband was incapable of performing them, but rather because he was just abiding by the terms of the contract. One I had never seen. Or agreed to. It was, essentially, the same deal as the one between the Queen of England and the swans of London: they all belong to her, whether she wants them or not. Although, in my case, instead of swans I get sixteen-year old bottles of fennel seeds.
And dryer lint.
Yes, dryer lint, because apparently I am the only one in the house allowed to remove it from the lint trap. (This even though we didn’t even own a dryer for the first five years of our marriage—obviously my secret dowry also included future possessions as well). Now normally this would not be an issue—even I am not so petty as to be above touching lint—but on those occasions when I am out of town for a few weeks it can get downright dangerous, not to mention frustrating when the lint cache is so full it takes two hands and bracing both feet to manage to get it out of the dryer upon my return.
The same can be said for the dumpster I need just to haul away the junk mail that piles up in my absence, as well as the very impressive collection of empty toothpaste tubes we would own if it weren’t for my diligence in actually throwing them away.
I’d say that this was a simple case of hoarding—of someone being unable to throw absolutely anything away—if it weren’t for the perfectly good vacuum that managed to find its way out to the curb for bulk pick up. (“I didn’t think we were using it anymore.” Apparently WE had never used it—it was something that also only lived in my sphere.)
I’m sure that there are also things in our house that I never do, or at least never do correctly. (In fact, I am sure that there is an entire list somewhere—and that loading the dishwasher is on there.) And I’m also pretty sure that one day the unluckiest one of us will have to find out exactly what the other’s list entails.
But until then: can I interest anyone out there in some lovely aged fennel lint salad? Maybe we can trade for a (partially) used vacuum cleaner.