My friend Mimi, an amateur gourmet cook, once stood in my kitchen, fighting back tears.
"They should film a reality cooking show in here," she said. "Chefs could compete to cook an entire meal using only the utensils you own."
I thought about Mimi's weepy declaration earlier this week as I was further paring back my utensils collection. My husband and I are in the throes of packing up our home; after 20 years, we are moving from Chickamauga, Ga., to Chattanooga.
Along with packing has come serious clearing out. We've made four trips to the county landfill, as well as multiple trips to the recycling center, Goodwill and the First Tennessee Bank coin-counting machine. We've said goodbye to beloved but outdated clothing, wedding gifts we never used, grad school notebooks full of numbers and theories we can no longer make sense of, expired medications and tiny half-used bottles of lotion and conditioner from the hundreds of hotels we've inhabited during our 15-year art fair career.
And then came the kitchen. For no good reason, I decided that I must cook every edible thing in the house so we wouldn't have to pack it out. This has led to fabulous meals of curried squash and sweet potato soup as well as less fabulous vegetable stews with enough paprika to choke a cow.
There have been Depression-era snacks of stale crackers spread with lusterless butter, breakfasts of oatmeal, cream cheese and long-forgotten bits of mozzarella and appetizers of frozen edamame with freezer burn.
On the brighter side, I made two pans of tiramisu with the ladyfingers I'd been hoarding in my freezer for a year. Today, finally, I am relieved to see only a tub of tofu, five bottles of beer and a lemon in my refrigerator. It must be time to move.
If I ask myself why -- why the fixation with cleaning and clearing out, giving, throwing away and eating-up in advance of our move -- I have only to think of a recent weekend when my husband and I went out to dinner with friends and, in a move that surprised even me, I ordered a martini instead of my usual glass of red wine. I'd never ordered a martini in my life. I'd never even tasted one. The switch wasn't lost on our friends.
"You're having a martini!" they each exclaimed.
As if I hadn't noticed. And the thing was, I really hadn't noticed, or rather, I hadn't thought that much about it.
That night, getting ready for bed, it suddenly hit me.
"The new house is a martini," I said to my husband.
My husband, who knows my mind almost as well as I do, nodded in agreement. The new house is different, unfamiliar, untested, an unknown. Instead of 10 acres, we'll have one. Instead of driving 40 miles round-trip to our studios, my husband will go downstairs and I'll go upstairs. Instead of epic-sized journeys to town to do errands, we'll have impossibly short outings.
We have no idea how any of this will feel, what parts we'll like and what we won't and whether it will suit us.
There's fear and sadness and excitement and worry and wonder. There's mystery to the ending, and mystery to the beginning -- and we simply had to clear out to make room for both. We are putting down one kind of glass and raising another: to hope, to home and to who-knows-what.