The Carolynn Chronicles, Volume 2- Get Thee Behind Me, Tupperware!

Let’s talk about containers. Probably not a subject you’ve given a lot of thought. To most of us containers serve a very utilitarian cause. They serve the purpose of storing, or dare I say “containing”, a variety of items. Containers help in making our living and working environments much more organized and efficient places. I shudder to think of a world without them- a kitchen with last night’s left-over baked beans just strewn about the floor or an office with paperclips, tape, glue, and staples just lying helter-skelter on a desk or table. Containers are a very underappreciated invention. I, however, have always held a strange fascination for them.

When I was a young girl I can very distinctly remember my favorite store in Fort Smith was Containers Plus. Containers Plus was the Mecca of all things pertaining to containers. I would get goosebumps upon opening the door and stepping inside. Shelves and shelves and rows and rows of nothing but containers as far as the eye could see. All shapes, all sizes. The majority of them being made of plastic and in every color you could imagine. Endless variety. That wasn’t even the best part, though. Once you had carefully selected the perfect containers to contain all of your items in need of containment, you would then walk over to the accessory portion of the store. This is where you would find a never-ending assortment of stickers and paint pens with which to personalize and decorate your containers. This truly was the equivalent of Disneyland in my young mind. This was my personal Nirvana.

My mother and I had differing viewpoints when it came to containers. Whereas most people just took containers and their acts of containment for granted, Carolynn most certainly did not. My mother viewed containers as a personal challenge for her. It was her own silent battle. She believed it was her job to make containers more attractive and efficient, regardless of the millions of dollars a particular company may have spent on the packaging and presentation of their products. Carolynn was determined to do it better. I’ll give you a few examples-

My mother does not believe that plastic should ever- and I mean EVER- be used as a container for storing food items. If you walked into my mother’s house at any hour of any day in any given year you would not find one shred of Tupperware in her house. Tupperware is the Devil’s creation. If my mother were a comic book super hero Tupperware would be her arch nemesis. I don’t know how or when it began exactly, this disdain for plastic. Perhaps Martha Stewart was going on about some French glass bowls she found at a New Zealand tag sale which were hand-crafted by blind, mute monks; but however it started, it is a rule that has held steadfast for as long as I can remember.

If you were ever fortunate enough to be at the Elder house for one of my mother’s fabulous home-cooked meals and there were ever any leftovers (which wasn’t a common occurrence), you had better be sure that those leftovers were placed into a glass container with a glass lid and placed into the refrigerator. Saran Wrap and Reynolds Wrap could be used in emergency situations when necessary, but only as a “lid” and never as the primary source of containment.

When my mother would come home from shopping at the store for toiletries she would take all shampoos and conditioners into the bathroom. Thus would begin the ticking clock. You had a very limited amount of time to take a good look at what she had purchased and to make a mental note of which items were what color so that you would know what purpose each of these items served. Why is this, you ask? It is because within hours of getting these items home, my mother would insist on removing all purchased items from their original packaging and combining several items into the new container of her choice. Now, I must correct one point- sometimes my mother would leave the items in their original containers and simply remove any and all labels from their packaging. “Guess which item I contain” was always a fun little game to play with the freshly-peeled bottles each morning at 7 a.m. while getting ready for school. Mostly though, she would take whatever shampoo was available and whatever condition was handy and combine the two into one container. Perhaps this was for reasons of saving space, but whatever the reason may be, my mother to this day will tell you that she invented the idea of two-in-one shampoo and conditioners. I can attest that she did.

Carolynn’s lust for combining items did not stop with shampoos, though, it spilled right over into the kitchen. I would sleepily wake up on a Saturday morning famished and in search of my favorite cereal. I would get out the milk, find the perfect bowl, and then begin pouring my cereal while attempting to watch cartoons through half-closed eyes. You can imagine my surprise when I would look down to see big brown flakes and raisins falling into my bowl along with my perfect little circles of Cheerios. I don’t even LIKE raisins.… aw, mom, COME ON! I am 17 years old now, surely this woman knows that I don’t like raisins! My mother came up with a variety of interesting cereal combinations throughout our childhood and teen years.

Jessica and I have given my mother a lot of grief about this little idiosyncrasy of hers, but honestly I think it is quite endearing. Please don’t tell her, though, as she is likely to come to my house and start combining items.

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