Smorgasbord 

Yesterday was one of those rare September Saturdays when we had nothing to do, so of course we fixed that. The four of us loaded into the car and rolled past hills and horse drawn buggies into Amish country. When we stopped for gas, there was a young Amish man in a wide brimmed straw hat and suspenders pulling in on a bike with no pedals. He used a credit card at the pump to fill up one of those red plastic gas containers. The soft curve of his mouth and lack of forehead burrows suggested deep contentment, not unlike the usual expression of a dog or a non-Amish person napping at the beach.

Every time we head out this way, I remember the fantasy I have of running off to join an Amish farm. As with all fantasies, this one is not well thought out and I wonder where it came from. Are the peat farmers perched on gently swaying branches of my family tree to blame? Maybe it was just the smoldering Amish sponge bath scene (the first time the previous five words were strung together on purpose?) from Witness.

If you want to kill an Amish fantasy or any fantasy for that matter, take it to a PA Dutch smorgasbord. We line up like cattle to drink lukewarm pepsi from frosted plastic cups and leave half-eaten pieces of fried chicken for starving pigs. The best part of the buffet are these enormous diorama paintings in the lobby. Everything is over-sized at the smorgasbord, but these feel right.

On the drive home, we muscle through clouds of manure and a town where every resident had the same idea to haul their castoffs out to the lawn and see who will pay money to take it away. Soon the sun will set and they’ll have to pack it all back into boxes or bags and pretend they still love it.

Our kids beg us to have another yard sale, but really they just want to drink lemonade and eat brownies in the front yard while strangers appraise bad decisions with hands folded behind backs, heads cocked to feign interest before moving on to the next bad decision. I find it too embarrassing so instead we drag bigger household items to the curb the moment we’ve decided their joy-bringing days are over and later look out the window and they’re gone, vaporized or beamed to another planet for all I know. Clothing and shoes are tied up in garbage bags and delivered to donation bins within the week by a spouse who fights clutter like its crime.

Even though I’ve never read the book on the Japanese art of decluttering, I do the thing where I ask if each item brings joy and then get rid of it if it doesn’t. It may be unfair to expect that of a pair of boots in the first place, but I had three pair at the back of the closet that brought nothing but pain. Earlier this week I got rid of a pair of shoes because one made a sound not unlike a small squeak toy with each step. I threw them away on a whim at the carwash, placing them neatly at the top of a mound of life detritus and later hoped no one thought “oh look, a new pair of shoes!” It took the doc martens I bought in college over 20 years to start squeaking, and even though I can no longer wear them to work because the hallways are too quiet, I don’t throw them out because they still bring joy.

The cats, in their usual helpful way, take turns climbing into storage bins and on top of clothing piles I’m trying to work with. It gives me an idea for a series of books called Organizing With Cats. Organizing Your Kitchen With Cats, for example, would feature tips about the best way to clean and store cast iron pans alongside photographs of cats resting in stockpots or surveying progress from the top of the refrigerator (protip: assess cleanliness by checking the bottoms of paws) and would make the perfect addition to any yard sale.

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14 thoughts on “Smorgasbord 

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  1. The cats like the empty boxes, funny that. The Doc Martens: me, I never could wear them, they were too hard on my feet. But kind of essential there, in the 90s. How about Herman Survivors?
    I’m happy to read an Amish post because I’ve been to some of those same small towns probably as you. And that you brought up that scene from Witness, good on you. Did you ever hear the story about how Harrison Ford got cast in Star Wars, that he was like a carpenter or something like that, a tradesman, and on a whim they had him read? I may have that wrong, as with most things, but that’s the essence of it.
    It’s cool you paint some vivid scenes with your day out yesterday, I’m happy for that. Here’s to Saturdays with no plans, and fixing that, and then writing about it. Life couldn’t be better. And squeak toys in your shoes, squeak-squeak. Happy Sunday. I’m going back out there myself, I think. Bill

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  2. Oh, I have got to get rid of some shoes, too.
    I did read the book on uncluttering, and my house is neat except for my closets full of clothes and shoes, half of which I never wear!
    I love the joy test!
    And your book on cats and kitchens would be awesome!
    I don’t have cats, but at my friend’s house I see the cats up licking our food…YUCK!
    Then again, when I had a dog, he just ate the food!! LOL
    xo
    Wendy

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  3. The five different sizes of jeans in my closet-do they bring me hope that I might fit into them again, or despair that I have five different sizes???!!! The toe pinching high heels-they’re going. I tried to be a well-dressed professional for about 3 years, it just wasn’t me. I’m all about living as me these days.

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  4. Our retirement house New Orleans is about 2/3 the size of our last work house in Memphis, plus I know longer have two out-of-home offices to squirrel away stuff. Major, major decluttering going on down here, and it really is feeling pretty good!

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  5. This is truly funny and profound at the same time. I have been to Amish restaurants and almost always over eat. I love to give stuff away and I have two bags in the basement right now ready to go to donation. I think the cat book idea is brilliant. ❤️

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    1. Next time I’d want to try a smaller PA Dutch place. This had 5 tour buses parked outside and a gift shop the size of walmart. Nothing about it felt Amish but the kids liked the novelty of it.

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