| Musings |

Trajectory of a Little Something

Surely, having returned the pouch to its owner, you will never see this pouch again

This time it’s your son’s Purim pouch. The one with his name on it that he gets from his rebbi for shalach manos and immediately designates as his fundraising attaché.

It gets lost and is found several times over the course of the Purim day, respectively causing bouts of anxiety and shrieks of jubilance. In total, it collects 131 dollars from merciful neighbors and drunk uncles.

The day after Purim, the money your son raised goes to school, but the pouch stays home. It stays on the dining room table, amid semi-dismantled shalach manos packages and costume accessories that need to be returned to helpful aunts.

Before Shabbos, when the dining room table is cleared, the pouch moves to the kitchen counter. It sits there on top of the pile of Purim school sheets and below the pair of plastic sunglasses your toddler brought home from playgroup.

What are you supposed to do with this pouch? With the sunglasses?

You don’t throw them out, because it’s a perfectly good pouch and a perfectly unbroken pair of sunglasses.

You don’t throw them out, but you also don’t put them in the toy closet, which is currently in a rare state of cleanliness and orderliness after being made “Pesachdik.” This pouch doesn’t a have a “spot” on any of the toy closet shelves.

So you do the only logical thing. It’s your son’s pouch: You put it on his bed.

Surely, having returned the pouch to its owner, you will never see this pouch again.

Except you do. Still before Shabbos. It’s back on the dining room table, and you do not appreciate personalized shalach manos/fundraising pouches on your dining room table when you light your Shabbos candles. So you quickly transfer it to the kitchen table. A few minutes later, when you sit down at the kitchen table to feed your toddler some kugel, you don’t even realize that you’re doing it — transferring the pouch back to the kitchen counter.

But the truth is, the pouch isn’t the problem. It’s just a cute little shiny black personalized pouch with a bunch of zippers and your son’s name in big blue letters on it. So innocent, and had it been the pouch alone, you wouldn’t care all that much. Perfectly clean and cleared countertops and a pouch. No big deal.

The problem is that the pouch is only one of hundreds of little somethings around the house that don’t have a place to call home.

In addition to the pouch, there’s the plastic sunglasses mentioned earlier. And the other sunglasses, not mentioned earlier, and several others, some in perfectly good shape, others less so. There are even some that you’re a hundred percent sure you’ve discarded in the past, more than once, and somehow, from the depths of the garbage can, they’ve resurfaced and live on.

There’s the pair of doll shoes from the doll you no longer own. There’s the doll, whose shoes have long gone missing. There’s the empty Amazon Prime bubble mailer, which you’re holding on to until the time you decide if you’re keeping or returning a certain purchase, you don’t remember which one. There’s mail. There are two Mancala marbles. There’s more mail. There are phone chargers that no longer work, and those that do, and since they’re mixed together and you don’t know which ones do and which ones don’t, you don’t throw any of them out. Ditto for batteries.

There’s the envelope of pictures waiting to be sorted in an album, the candy platter with coconut-coated chocolates that nobody likes, the cellphone bubble necklace — hello, bubbles! In March! Who-what-when-how?

There’s the spiral notebook that still has a few blank pages, somewhere between all the scribbled and ripped ones, but who throws out blank paper? You could totally use them for… uh, mitzvah notes. And grocery lists.

There are books — ones that you own and ones that your kids have borrowed and eventually need to return.

There are magazines. New issues, which you’re going to read. Recent ones, which you’ve read most of but still need to finish. Very old ones, which you’ve held on to because of certain articles you wanted to read, although you don’t remember which articles they were, and meanwhile, those magazines have undergone a slew of address changes, including your dresser, the couch, the mail cabinet, the pile of magazines in the corner of the dining room, the windowsill, and, of course, the kitchen counter. There are so many magazines littering your house, yet somehow, someone threw out the issue that included the article that opened a Pandora’s box in the magazine’s inbox before you had a chance to read it, and this makes the decision to throw away any other magazines that much harder.

Then there are school papers, here to spite you. Get rid of me, they challenge you, and watch me return. With company.

They’re like the Tzefardei’a in Mitzrayim. Every time you attack them, more and more sprout. There are parshah sheets and teeth-brushing charts, alef-beis review sheets, and playgroup newsletters. School papers don’t just take up occupancy on your kitchen counter. They’re the kind of guests who make themselves comfortable anywhere and everywhere. On the couch, under the couch, behind the couch, near the couch. On, under, behind, and near the dining room table, the kitchen counters, the beds in every bedroom, the playroom, the windowsills, the mail cabinet, the very air you breathe.

And you can’t just dump those papers, because some of them contain sheimos, some relay important schedule changes, some have to go back to school with lots of undeserved checks.

Before Pesach, you go on a rampage. This is your opportunity, and you’re determined to throw out every last little something. You don’t ask anyone any questions, you don’t allow for emotional partings. You just throw it out. Throw it out. Throw it out. Throw it out.

Pesach comes, and you stand back to admire your stunningly bare countertops, the bare areas on, under, and around the couch, the bare windowsills.

Pure nachas.

You’re going to hold on to this, you tell yourself. From now on, you won’t allow any clutter to accumulate. You will toss every little something that has no permanent purpose the moment it enters your house. You will insist that books remain in bookcases, you will sort photos in albums the moment they’re printed.

You’re determined, and you will show everyone you mean it.

You set forth right after Pesach. When you bring in the mail that arrived on Yom Tov, you don’t dump it on the counter. You toss all the credit card offers and peel the masking tape off the sold mail cabinet door to neatly stow the mail that needs to be addressed.

But when you open that cabinet, what do you find?

A mountain of school papers.

And a shiny, black personalized pouch.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 839)

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