Stench.

Stabbing with a knife far sharper than my therapist would recommend, I am determined to get this puke-colored slab out of my ecofriendly Pyrex bowl. My most violent stabs make only the slightest of dents, however, about as effective as digging a well with a toothpick. But I soldier on in Missouri mule fashion. Mid-strike, I glimpse a dog walker out of my kitchen window, staring, aghast. I drop  my weapon long enough to draw the shades. I can’t afford another citation from the Sanity Police.

From behind the blackout shade, I’m back at the whacking. It’s Trash Day, just minutes before the arrival of the big truck that makes our detritus disappear—or so it seems. Don’t get me started on the Landfills of Despair; I’m already mad enough, and I have just minutes to rid this retch from our lives. If this gunk defrosts before I can chuck it, I may not live to tell the tale.

Wielding the blade with a fervor I usually reserve for phone books, I’m giving it my all….and seeing no signs of movement. Why did I think freezing that barf-colored glop would be a good idea? It seemed like an obvious, lifesaving decision back when its vulture vomit stench nearly inspired a call to the EMTs.

How did it come to this, anyway? I managed years of puke green diapers with nary a swoon, after all. How I could I have predicted that some baby poop-looking mass might deprive me of consciousness one day?

As with most of my self-made predicaments, it’s borne of my Earth-loving intentions: “Don’t buy new when you can reuse!”

Jars. I wanted empty baby food jars to store the watercolor paints I’d mixed for my first zine. How I got started on a “comic book,” so to speak, at my, um, advancing age is yet another story. Suffice to say there’s big section of my hippocampus that’s still convinced I’m youthful, ageless, and HOT. But I digress.

I have no end of empty jars at my disposal, given my inability to toss “perfectly good” Mason jars that once held marinara or dill pickles. They are just too big for the smattering of watercolor I want to mix up. Being decades out of infant care, however, my stash of tiny jars vanished long ago, like so many sock mates in the dryer. Buying new jars of baby food, just to toss the contents, was not an eco-friendly option. Think of all the water, backbreaking work and natural resources went into making that food!

So I posted a request on my local Buy Nothing group for empty baby food jars. Seemed like an easy ask, given how many families with young kids have moved into the area in recent years. Quite a different demographic now than when we moved into our house twenty-ish years ago—back when neighbors under the age of, say, “mature” were few. Now we can’t walk down the sidewalk without tripping over a stroller.

Not that I’m annoyed; I love welcoming new mommy friends. Because there’s yet another part of my brain that’s convinced I’m still a young mother—which is a serious stretch since I was nearing my 4th decade when my first was born. Whatever. Suffice to say there’s a lot going on up here in my “see-the-world-I-want-to-see” imagination.

Given the usual frenzy of activity on my local Buy Nothing group, I was surprised to receive only one reply: a mom offered me a bunch of baby food jars . . . With. Food. Still. In. Them. Turns out, her little cherub, an early adopter of veganism, perhaps, refused to consume the meaty contents with an obstinance usually reserved for those refusing to accept valid election results.

Ironic, isn’t it? Seeing as how I would be getting exactly what I thought I didn’t want, but who says the Universe doesn’t have a twisted sense of humor? I take my Divine Providence as it comes.

I then hit upon the idea of feeding the 100% beef baby food to my carnivorous cats. Voilà! No wasted food. This particular baby food brand is highly recommended for cats with “sensitive tummies.” Given the volume of cat vomit we get in this house, I readily assumed our cats to be the sensitive tummy variety.

Eager to get painting, I emptied the baby food from all the jars into this Pyrex, with plans to dole out the deliciousness to the fawning felines sparingly. It’s 100% beef, after all! I imagined cats down the block howling in envy, just to catch a whiff of the meaty aroma.

The emptied and cleaned jars worked perfectly for storing my small batches of watercolors. Basking in the smug glow of eco-sanctimony, I braced myself for the onslaught of adoration when I fed the baby food to my cats.

As a long-time cat custodian, you’d think I’d know better.

All three cats— who never agree on anything— were united on this critical point: shun this puke-colored offering like vegans at a pig roast. One pouted, giving me a hurt look as if I can never be trusted again. The second one sulked away in disgust. The third one barfed into my favorite slipper.

Seething, I flung the Pyrex into the back of the fridge, vowing to feed those cats only kale for a week. See how they like THAT! Then, like so much unpleasantness, I buried the whole experience deep into that river in Egypt: De Nile.

Days later, I noticed a foul odor assaulting me when I opened the fridge door. But, no worries,  I’ve learned to slam it quickly in such situations—well before anyone can suggest that “the fridge needs cleaning out!”

A few more days later….I couldn’t slam fast enough, and the stench threatened my very state of consciousness.

In a coordinated move that rivaled Simone Biles on the beam, I  grabbed that wretchedness and stuffed it into the freezer with such aplomb that I managed to avoid revisiting the contents of my stomach. In just a few hours, no more stench. In a not-so-eco-friendly move, I opened and closed the freezer door several times, just to relish the odorless air.

Have I mentioned how much I love my freezer? It’s been there for me in times of stress like few appliances have. Got a beeping toy that WILL NOT STOP in the middle of the night? Toss it in! Want to extend the life of your batteries? Toss them in! Want to get gum off your shoe? Toss it in! Got bugs in the rice bag again? Toss it in!

But this hack was my favorite so far.

Until now. As I’m stabbing with futility— both hoping for and dreading the defrosting of this rotting sludge— I realize that COVID-19 taught something useful.

👏MASKS 👏 ARE 👏LIFE 👏 SAVING 👏

I grab the handful of masks I have not yet lost and don them all. I return to my work with the smug satisfaction of an old dog who can, in fact, learn new tricks. Just a hundred more whacks, and this will all be over. If only I could say that for the stench emanating from the gym bag that hasn’t been touched since the lockdown began.

Somebody should do something about that.

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