Friday, January 16, 2009

The Grease Cup

Dave and I were talking the other day about the grease cup that we used to keep in the back of the refrigerator. On the outside it may have said Prego or Alpo or Campbell's Soup, but on the inside it was a congealed mixture of hamburger fat and bacon grease. If it had been there long enough, awaiting further contributions, it sported a fuzzy blue coat of mold on top. In a perverted sort of way I guess it represented health: whatever fats had solidified in the cup had not been consumed. Why didn't we dispose of them down the drain while they were still in their liquid form? Because over time the fats clog up pipes—even ones much bigger than human arteries.

Until we were talking about it, I hadn't realized how long it had been since I kept a grease cup in the fridge. Probably not since my meat-and-potatoes-crazed first husband was alive. That would make it more than eleven years now. These days our diet is much more lean.

That isn't the only change that's occurred in the past decade, of course. At the time of their father's suicide my sons called me "Mommy" and held my hand to cross the street; now they are both in college, making their own way in the world. Acting on what I felt to be a true calling, I've written two novels. Over and over. I've started an editing business. I have healed enough to write a memoir about moving on after Ron's death, inspiring me to transcend my anger enough to dare to remember that I was once crazy in love with him. Eleven years ago I thought a 2-mile walk a few times per week was quite the accomplishment; now I walk over 3 miles most days, even in this frigid weather (I'm going for my walk as soon as the thermometer rises above 17). I anted up and remarried, gambling that my unfulfilled relationship dreams might still come true—and won the pot. I traveled abroad for the first time, and looked back to wonder how on earth it was I lived in Bechtelsville PA for a quarter of a century.

I may not have moved, but I have not been stagnant. The grease cup memory reminds me that my life has been in constant forward motion. My life may not be perfect, but I am making better, more healthful choices. That progress can be hard to see on a daily basis; the liquid nature of "the present" won't allow contextual evaluation. Stepping back and looking at a larger chunk of years, though, is like putting the grease cup in the fridge—it's easier to see what's accumulated once your accomplishments have solidified with time. 

I'll have to come up with a new metaphor for examining my next decade, though. The grease cup, like many of my poorer and thankfully outgrown lifestyle choices, is something I'm glad to leave behind.


Melanie Gold said...

Great analogy, Kathryn, and way to go on the frigid-weather walking. I admit to having abandoned my 3-mile walk back in, oh, November probably. However, I'm still walking the dog, so I'm not a total lost cause. :-)

Kathryn Craft said...

Dogs are great for getting us out of the house in all kinds of weather! I must say, though, that my walks are a little more aerobic now that my super-sniffing, leg-raising sidekick is no longer with me. I miss him, though...