By Erika Hoffman
“You left the candle burning all night,” my husband, of 40 years, greeted me.
“Sounds like lyrics to a song,” I said, yawned, and grabbed eggs from the fridge.
“It didn’t burn all the way – luckily.”
“Scented candles are slow burners.”
After his omelet, he packed up his laptop, full coffee mug, and bundles of forms. He headed to the door and pivoted. “You smell something funky?” he asked. “Like broccoli?”
“I need to empty the trash,” I answered. Truth be told, I’d smelled something wretched since the kids left after Christmas. Between the pine aromas of the Tannenbaum, the baking smells of overflowing concoctions in the oven and cooking odors that lingered, my kitchen reeked. “Hope the dachshunds didn’t leave a deposit, somewhere,” I yelled, giving him a comforting thought to mull over on his 30 minute drive to work.
“Humph. You’d better look around.”
After he left, I poked my head into rooms where those two wieners have secreted off before – the tiles in the bathroom, utility room, laundry room – spotless. I meandered into the sun room. A ragged, old, white rug lay with a yellow blemish in the middle of it, but I wouldn’t think that little pee stain would cause this “Pepé Le Pew” odor. The aura worsened as I neared the clutter in the kitchen. Numerous pots and pans sat on the counter. After washing them Christmas night, I’d left them there. Too many folks, too much cooking, too busy was I to stow them away that day or the following ones. Mesmerized by our one year old granddaughter crawling through a cloth tumbling tunnel; astride on a glide-and-stride, noisy, plastic lion or ripping open her many presents, I watched and didn’t attend to much straightening up. Photos snapped. Videos recorded. Wrapping paper wadded up.
As I scoured the den with a probing gaze I saw the gifts to us from my grown kids and their spouses still standing where we’d unwrapped them. A Lenox deviled egg tray from one son; a Coach handbag from a daughter- in- law; hand cream from my youngest kid – my daughter – who also gave me a coffee latte maker. Off to the side was the plastic squatty stool my son-in-law gave us. (Last year, it was toilet paper with an elected official’s face on it.) Near the squatty stool was the piece-de-resistance that he and my daughter had covered in silvery, ornate, inviting holiday paper. A heavy item! My husband and I tore off the paper to discover our present. They howled with laughter. It was their old, cumbersome TV which they’d wanted to discard because they had no room for it in their tiny DC apartment. While all our “adult” children were guffawing over this booby prize, I had to excuse myself to stick a thermometer in the sizzling turkey and check the gizzards boiling on the stove. I don’t eat the innards in my stuffing, but I thought I could chop them up for the dogs. I turned off the flame and put the covered pot on a back eye. As more gifts were unwrapped by my expectant daughter in law for the baby-to-come soon after the holidays, we gazed at the cuteness of the onesies and oohed and ahhed over the baby Santa hat. Then, my granddaughter needed feeding and a nap; next we descended on the Noel feast in the dining room.
Yes, I was busy that day.
While remembering the 25th with fondness, nine days ago, I returned into the kitchen and recalled why I lit the aromatic candle the night before: Something rotten. I sniffed inside the refrigerator. I tied up the trash bag and hauled it outside. Upon reentering and re-smelling the unpleasantness, I ambled on to the sun porch to check for dead plants or dead mice. I spied the doggies, scooped them up, and bathed them for good measure. As they shook off in the bathroom with a space heater running, I returned to the kitchen to tackle the mess of china, silverware, pots and pans amassed on my long granite counter.
Pots and pans sat on the eyes of the stove, too. I grabbed a frying pan and deftly tucked it away in a bottom drawer. I lifted a casserole dish and stored it away under the oven. I spied the big metal pot with lid on the back burner and picked it up. Heavy!
“Huh?” I pulled up the lid. The stench rolled out, consuming me, choking me, disgusting me. Encrusted in purplish mold sat a turkey’s heart, neck and other gross bird parts.
At Godspeed, of which I didn’t think myself capable, I sprinted for a trash bag, dumped the pot’s contents in it, knotted it shut in record time, and dashed to the outside garbage can, like Santa carrying a load over his back with dawn fast approaching. I marveled I didn’t heave-ho my lunch as I heaved-hoed the bag into the bin. When I returned to the scene of the crime, I gagged and scrubbed that pot over and over again. Even after it sat in vinegar for half a day, I still contemplated dumping it.
When my husband arrived home, he sniffed the air but made no comment. I considered revealing the stinky culprit. It might be worth a chuckle to repeat the story to him about the decaying turkey detritus. On reconsideration, I realized the takeaway message would be that his wife is either too old to multi-task or has lost her few remaining marbles. Neither of these story themes appealed to me. Instead, I asked, “Honey, if I light a scented candle, would you be so kind as to put it out for me, in case I forget?” We settled down for some good TV watching in an aromatic ambience with two dachshunds under a quilt, their noses protruding, enjoying the cinnamon air, with no trace of stinky pot.
About this writer
- Erika Hoffman lviews most travel experiences as educational experiences and sometimes the lessons learned are revelations about oneself.
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