RAISING ELLE
The Things We Carry
by Martinique Davis
Mar 11, 2010 | 1093 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I got my bad eyesight from my mom and stocky legs from my dad. When I look at Elle, I see little pieces of Craig and me – his feet, my nose – and I wonder: Will she be lucky enough to skate away with my straight teeth and Craig’s 20/20 vision? What about her soon-to-come little brother or sister? Will he or she, too, have those piercing blue eyes framed by long, dark lashes?

But beyond the genetic stamp we’ve imprinted on these kids (without our having much of a say), I’ve been ruminating lately on the other things we’ll pass down to them. The things we may, at least we think, have some control over. The more intangible things that otherwise make you the person you are; the “nurture” part of the equation, as opposed to the inborn “nature.”

I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve been trapped in my garage. My completely disheveled, can-barely-pull-a-car-in-without-ramming-something garage. The garage that looks, jarringly, like my father’s completely disheveled garage. The garage that must, I vow, resemble the nauseatingly ordered and tidy garages of my neighbors (and my mother) before this spring.

How did I get here? I wonder, sifting through pile after pile of random garage detritus. There is a metal dog dish holding a sprinkler head and a lone mitten. There is a wooden box containing what looks to be the contents of my car’s console from about four years ago: A spare set of house keys, a rusty Swiss Army knife, 15 pens, a bottle of saline solution, a receipt for metal cabinet knobs from Home Depot, three Chapsticks (only two Chapstick lids) a pair of cheap sunglasses I once found in a parking lot, and a refund check from Sallie Mae in the amount of $2.14.

There are four spare bulbs for the fluorescent lamp that broke two years ago. There is the tire to the jog stroller that Craig accidentally crunched with his truck last summer. There are three vacuums, a lamp without a shade and five folding chairs in various stages of disrepair. There is the kids’ telephone that oinks and quacks and neighs when you push its buttons, which Craig found too annoying to keep inside the house.

There is a box that says “Tiles” and another that says “Paper.” Inside the Tile box is a paltry assortment of screws, while in the Paper box I find curling ribbon.

I attempt to make sense of the chaos. I roll the five spare car tires out into the driveway. I hang our fishing vests on a hook. I sweep errant pencils and golf balls into a pile, and then throw said perfectly good pencils and golf balls away. I must. I have no other choice. I can no longer stand walking into the garage in search of a hammer, and walking out with nothing but a stubbed toe and a sense of defeat.

I am in the garage for three days, moving piles from corner to corner and getting splinters. I emerge from the depths at the end of each session like a mole, covered in dust and squinting at the natural light. I have made some kind of headway, but there are seemingly massive projects that still await; the “work table,” and its heaving shelves loaded with mysterious, inevitably mislabeled bags and boxes, is one.

Why, oh why, wasn’t I born with my mother’s clean garage gene? Why, like my father, can’t I seem to keep the piles and mounds of my life organized?

It’s maddening to know that some of your parents’ most maddening traits become your own most maddening attributes.

Following my third stint in the coal-mine of my garage, I was feeling a little annoyed. Peeling, chopping and de-seeding Hatch, N.M., green chiles to make our dinner that night, I mulled over the conundrum of my inclination towards chaos. So much crap! So much time! Why can’t I keep organized?

Robotically sautéeing onions, instinctively adding dashes of cumin, sage, salt and sugar as the ingredients evolve into green sauce on my stove, I envisaged my father’s garage. The sagging shelves. The cluttered corners. The mislabeled boxes.

As a young adult, dreaming of the day I’d own my own house (and garage) I envisaged something quite different than this scene of disorder, apparently passed down to me from my father.

Elle, I’m afraid, has little chance of escaping the stamp of Disordered Garage Syndrome. Sorry, kid, but you, too, will probably spend many exasperating days trying to reign in the madness of your own garage someday.

“Marti, this is awesome!”

Lost in my garage clutter reveries and cursing that inherited characteristic that makes me incapable of organization, I had barely noticed Craig sniffing his way into the kitchen and sneaking a taste of the nearly finished green sauce I had mindlessly been stirring.

“It’s almost as good as your dad’s,” he noted, which in our house is code for: That is damn good.

And then it dawned on me. Not all inherited traits are so annoying. In fact, some inbred characteristics are quite delicious. Some are worthy of pride.

She may stand little chance of having a clean garage, but maybe my daughter will grow up to cook New Mexican specialties that taste almost as good as her grandfather’s.
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