As my prior blog entry revealed, my family narrowly avoided a house fire due to my diligence about dryer vent cleaning. Now, I have to take credit for another act of heroism also known as The Culling of the Coats.
Some people have a problem with socks that breed, multiply and then disappear under beds, couches or into the wrong drawers, closets and backpacks. Our family has a similar problem with coats. Last Saturday, I asked my son to search out their favorite gathering places and dump them in a pile on the living room floor.
First, he cleared the entry foyer. That only took two trips. Then he cleared the mudroom coat hangers, hooks and baskets. Three trips. Last, he tackled the darkened coat closet and shelves at the entry to the crawl space. That took 7 trips. I counted 51 pelts.
We formed a family circle around them. My daughter stood near the Keep pile. My son handled the Landfill pile and the Donate pile. My husband guarded his own special section since he is the primary cause for this overabundance. My son drew one coat at a time and we all voted on the final destination. The majority didn’t always win the vote; in some cases, it depended on the emotional outbursts and persuasiveness of the owner.
The one-piece ski suit with the wide belt and high collar stayed because it would come in handy during Retro Ski Day although of course no one in our family has participated in that event.
The worn-out Mother Karen shell coat from 1981 went to Heaven along with vests, parkas and raincoats that were torn, abused and de-zippered beyond repair. Most of the fishing, hunting, golfing, Carhartts and lumberjack gear were saved. Heirloom Patagonia fleece pullovers were fondled. Memories were shared over the fishing coat my husband gave me when we were first married 19 years ago that I had worn once, and dust-covered scarves were reminders of Christmas Past. I brushed cobwebs off some old snowmobiling pants, thinking of the day my husband rode off the trail into a tree and broke three ribs. He wouldn’t let me toss them in the Landfill pile. My son’s beloved cockroach costume was bagged for donation.
In the end, we culled over 20 from the herd. My husband was forbidden from bringing home any more outerwear from his jaunts to the See N’ Save Thrift Store. My fear is that the wide open spaces we now enjoy in the entry way and mud room will slowly and inexplicably begin to fill. After all, we didn’t grab the coats that live in our vehicles or hang on pegs in the garage. Or remain stashed in camping storage or river bags or the horse trailer or bedroom closets.
Snow on the mountains means winterizing in the valley. Teton Ace Hardware was the locals’ hot spot recently with people filling carts with insulating products, heat tape, gloves, and beefy Carhartt overalls. I picked up a new dryer venting tube and fastener, which was just the beginning of an interesting home experiment.
The last load of laundry from my now-retired dryer resulted in a woodsy scented load of clothing. Woodsy as in a forest fire. The clothes were smoked and the filter in the back of the dryer had changed color from white to black. I was lucky the house hadn’t burned down.
Did you know that dryer vents should be cleared every two years? My husband and I had last attempted this task 5 years ago. We opened the trap door to the crawl space that houses the outside vent; it took two people, hammers, levers and an inordinate amount of cussing to remove the door to access the outside vent. As if moving the dryer from its tiny slot and making the skinniest child get back there to remove the inside vent tubing wasn’t a big enough pain in the —. I realized that I would never be able to convince my husband to clear the vent again. Fast forward to the present.
Before the new dryer arrived, I offered my 17-year-old son an exorbitant amount of money to open the freakin’ heavy, ridiculously-designed trap door and use the shop vac and a special brush to clear it out. I vacuumed out the inside vent. My husband vanished. My son emerged from the pit wide-eyed, announcing that there were spiders, glowing red eyes and maybe ancient burial grounds down there.
It was a happy day when I placed a wet washer load into the new Whirlpool. Twenty minutes into the drying phase, a bright red light flashed: Check Vent. My husband immediately packed his bags and disappeared on a three day fishing trip in Yellowstone. My son packed his bags and went to a concert in Colorado with some friends. My daughter gave me the stink-eye. I was on my own.
I hit YouTube first and found a great How-To video about clearing stubborn dryer vents. I had been doing this all wrong. Armed with nothing but flabby arms, I pulled out the dryer and removed the new vent tubing. Then I went outside with hammers, metal shafts, and steel-toed boots. It took me 30 minutes but I moved that freakin’ awful heavy trap door and dropped in the pit. I opened up that vent, not once feeling that my life was in danger. Getting out of the pit was kind of hard, though, and I prayed that my neighbors weren’t watching as I dragged myself out of the pit and across the deck like an inchworm. A very large inchworm.
Here’s the good part: I inserted the leaf blower tube into the inside vent and let-er rip. It was cathartic. Huge piles of packed lint blew out into the pit. In 10 seconds, a mountain shrugged off my shoulders.
Purple irises remind me of walking through my grandmother’s garden in Washington thirty-five years ago. The smell of Pine-sol cleaner reminds me of the mint-green bathrooms at Horace Mann elementary school in New Jersey circa 1969. Last week, I came across an item that took me back to childhood visits to the dentist: black licorice ice cream.
My parents had three children in a row and then a gap of 2 years before the fourth child. Dentist appointments were scheduled at the group rate with each of us taking our turn in the chair. For some reason, my parents rewarded us afterwards with a trip to the ice cream parlor. Have you tried to lick an ice cream cone with a fully Novacained mouth? If not, try it sometime and share your photos with me. Now picture 4 children under the age of 10 trying to demolish a double-scoop cone. We may never know if my parents were a tad sadistic or simply in need of comic relief.
Anyhoo, Mom and Dad would take us to Snelgrove’s Ice Cream parlor in Sugarhouse, Utah and allow us to order our favorite flavors. My favorite was black licorice. From that point on, after moving away from Utah and whenever I had occasion to visit various ice cream stands, I would always search for black licorice. Let’s be clear: the color of this delicacy is black. Some posers have sold it as aqua blue or pale grey. It must be black as in “black licorice”. Our visits to Snelgrove’s ended with the lower halves of our faces coated with ice cream. I often looked like Blackbeard.
My children and husband have become part of the search team for the elusive dessert. They’ve joined the team because they care about me and want me to shut up about licorice ice cream, not because they like the flavor because they don’t.
So last week, I was strolling up the frozen foods aisle with my daughter when she turned to me, smiled and said, “Look Mom, there’s a new brand of ice cream.”
People, spread the word. Broulim’s in Driggs, Idaho is now carrying Red Button Vintage Creamery in a selection of flavors including BLACK LICORICE! My cries of delight forced my daughter to run and hide in the toothpaste aisle. Waiting impatiently at the check-out register, the couple ahead of me noticed my carton of BLACK LICORICE ice cream and commented softly to each other about the flavor.
“And it’s black, not bright blue! I’ve been waiting all my life for this!” I exclaimed to them both, with an undertone of hysteria. They looked deeply into my eyes, decided that I was a benign lunatic, and assured me that they would sure check out the ice cream aisle the next time they came to Broulim’s.
My first spoonful took me back to Snelgrove’s, closed for almost a decade now. Memories of our family standing in front of the long counter to order, then seated around the circular booth, smashing cones onto our chins and cheeks. It was heavenly.
What sensory mode takes you back in time? Share the scent, taste, feel, sound or sight that flies you right to a certain moment. And then go check out the ice cream selection at Broulim’s.