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Household Mysteries

In our house, we have mysteries. Top on the list is the mystery of the disappearing cranberry bowl. We used to have a set of four glass cranberry-colored nesting bowls. The largest one is too big for most tasks. The one we lost was perfect for pancake batter, salads for a family of four, biscuit batter… Oh, how we loved that bowl.
And then one day it vanished.
How do you lose a large glass cranberry-colored bowl?
Not to mention a stone pestle. One day our mortar lost its soulmate. How do you lose a stone pestle?
Sunglasses often walk away from where they were most definitely left by their owners. But at least we’ve found that sunglasses generally enjoy hiding under car seats.
Some mysteries get solved. When we moved into our house it was July. We inherited white Berber carpeting from the previous owners. All was well until the first rains, when all of a sudden our carpet was crawling with sowbugs. This happened throughout the rainy season. We tried all sorts of remedies, till I read about sowbug habitat. One day we ripped out the heavy hedges along the front of the house and voila!, mystery solved. Now we just get an occasional sowbug. And the problem got us to rip out the yucky carpet, too. Bonus!
Then there was the recent mystery of the disappearing newspaper. Every morning when I went out on my walk early and brought the paper in, we had a paper. Any morning that I got out late, such as on a weekend, the paper would have disappeared.
What fiend was stealing our paper? We thought we lived in a fine neighborhood, but we were starting to suspect all of our most innocent-seeming neighbors.
Then one day I went out for my walk and there was our neighbors’ dog, Buddy, a very adorable golden retriever. I had seen one day how they’d trained him to go get their paper, and I thought, aw, how cute. Well (I’m sure you’ve solved the mystery before I did), that morning Buddy ran over to me and grabbed our paper in his mouth.
I tried the command that we used to issue to our retrievers: “Drop it!” Nothing, just a tail-wagging plea for praise at doing his job so well.
So it turned into a tug-of-war: “Gimme that paper, Buddy!” Ever tried to rip something from the mouth of a retriever? He did finally give it up, but not without a good-humored fight.
Other household mysteries involve companies we do business with. We installed vertical blinds across the full wall of windows in our master bedroom. The valance kept falling off — the clips that held it were breaking. Finally my husband called the company.
“Oh, yeah,” they said. “We can’t send you anymore of those clips. We stopped making them. But we can send you new blinds.”
So they sent us an entire set of new blinds. Except they didn’t have the inserts in them to make them blackout shades, and with that many windows, we’d never be able to sleep. So he called again. No, they said, we can’t just send you just the slip-in pieces that make them blackout blinds. We have to send you another entire set!
That time they got it right. The first time we threw away our old blinds, feeling like victims of someone else’s conspicuous consumption. But the second time, we had an entire set of new blinds, made to the specifications of our wall of windows. We hadn’t even unpacked them, because we realized immediately that they were wrong. But since they were made to order, the company didn’t want them back.
We got a hold of Habitat for Humanity, and after many phone calls to schedule it, they did take our unneeded new set of blinds. Now they’ll have to design a house around the blinds!
This is a mystery we still haven’t solved: why is that company still in business if that’s the type of business they do?
We live in a pretty new house, so it doesn’t have so many ghosts. But old houses can have further mysteries of their own. Long ago I lived in a very old four-plex in downtown Palo Alto. One evening there was a knock at the door. There stood an elderly woman and her grown daughter. The woman said, “My husband and I lived in this apartment when we were first married in the thirties. Can I come in and look?”
We discussed the apartment’s 60-year problem with earwigs, and then she told me her most memorable household mystery. In the thirties when she lived there, there was a beautiful field behind the building. Each month at the full moon, she would look out the window to see a woman in a long, white nightgown, dancing in the field.
Perhaps her dancing woman knows where my cranberry bowl is.

Posted in Parenting.


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