Day Two: Are Having Fun Yet?

January 7, 2020 § 13 Comments

“Well THIS is going to be fun. I don’t get to have crackers for a whole year?”

Greta was fuming. Grouchiness was coming off her like vapor off a steam engine as we plodded back to her Brooklyn apartment. We were returning from our first visit to her local grocery store of the new year- the brand-new Year of No Garbage for our family- and I think it would be fair to categorize it as an unmitigated disaster.

“I’m just saying. Carr’s Crackers are my childhood. They’re part of my ritual when I come home from classes. I mean— I’ve finally figured out all the things here that have no sugar!!!”

Greta & Ilsa were SO CAREFUL to make sure their coffee cups and lids were recyclable. This is the moment we realized Rockefeller Center has removed all recycling containers for security purposes. We carried those cups around for HOURS. Alternate caption: Mom’s Projects Suck

I felt terrible. Everything I said to try to console her just turned into another argument. We can make crackers! Yeah, but they won’t be as good. They might be even better! Probably not.

Of course it wasn’t just the crackers. The first five things we had picked up in the store were returned to the shelves in despair: clementines in plastic netting, no-sugar bacon in vacuum-sealed plastic, bread in shiny see-through bags, cheese of all shapes and sizes in cellophane, and of course, the infamous, last-straw Carr’s Crackers which had become a staple in our house during the Year of No Sugar, and which we well know contain a cellophane bag inside their paperboard box.

Ilsa was just as indignant. Her eye had been on a package of smoked salmon and cream cheese pinwheels that had been wrapped in approximately fourteen different kinds of plastic, all of which screamed LANDFILL to anyone who would listen.

So in between sparring with Greta on the hopelessness of our situation, Ilsa jumped in with her own commentary. (me:)What if we make our own pinwheels? We could buy smoked salmon and cream cheese… Smoked salmon comes in plastic. We can get it at the fish store! I don’t like that kind as much. Besides they won’t sell it to you without a plastic bag either.

Despair, despair, despair.

In desperation I even pulled out the Big Picture Talk: “You know guys, this year… it’s going to be a process. It isn’t going to just be easy. And a lot of things we’ll have to research and learn and… that’s the value of doing this whole thing, right?”

They just looked at me with utter blankness on their faces. Well known to parents of young people, it’s the look that says: “Yeah. Right.”

By the time we got to Greta’s basement apartment, I had about had it: Look. Guys. It’s Day TWO. Are we ready to give up? Is that it? And Greta, you volunteered to do this in the city. If you don’t want to do this then you don’t have to. Yes I do! No you don’t! Yes I do!

There was an aggravated silence, broken at last by Steve. “So! How was the store?”

“It was awesome. EVERYBODY’S MAD AT ME.” I responded.

“I’m not mad.” Greta said, growing quiet. “I guess I’m just… scared.” I was stopped dead by the abrupt shift in her demeanor.

“I’m sorry mama. I just feel like, if I don’t do this project… I won’t be a part of this family anymore.” She paused. “And, I also feel like you’ve forgotten how hard Year of No Sugar really was.”

She had me there. “First of all, you are ALWAYS a part of this family, no matter what.” I said firmly. “And second… you’re right. Sometimes I think I remember, but I also think I forget too.” After a pause I added, “Plus, you guys are older. You fight back much harder now.” This made the girls smile. And just like that the First Big Argument was over and we were on the same team again.

The fact is, I had forgotten how hard it is to do a big against-the-societal-grain-project like this. It’s like swimming upstream, all day long, every day. How could I have possibly forgotten that? And how could I fail to take into account the amount of strain that puts on our family? Of course I knew the answer to my own question: it was because I get so mesmerized by the power of The Big Idea, and I want so badly to do it. Was it wrong for me to ask that of my family? I don’t always know the answer to that question.

But I was heartened by Greta’s ability to identify her anger as fear, and her ready willingness to express it. If only, I thought, if only we can all manage to work together as a team, and not take our frustrations out on each other, that would be essential to getting us through this year in one piece. That, and a little luck. With that thought, I breathed a sigh of relief as we put the last groceries away in the cupboard.

Then we went outside to find that our car had been towed.


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§ 13 Responses to Day Two: Are Having Fun Yet?

  • I love the last sentence!

  • Lisa Kotin says:

    This is such a fantastic piece of writing. You are so smart and talented and brave. Would that we all had a bit of the courage you once again model!

  • Kelly Roberts says:

    Well done Greta!

    You make the statement that is needed in a family project like this one, as well as international relations with Iran; ‘….if only we can all manage to work together as a team, and not take our frustrations out on each other, that would be essential to getting us through….’

  • Diane says:

    Oh no!! Not the car towed!! Gah!!!

    Yes – this stuff is tough indeed. Drives me nuts to walk into a grocery store and see all that plastic – and I do complain to the stores all the time. Luckily, where I live, most single use plastics have been banned – we just use reusables – but I think some places are way behind in this.

  • Mariah Warren says:

    Holy moly! That sounds pretty rough Ladies! And then the car got towed??? My goodness!!!! 🤦‍♀️Hang in there and keep up the good work!

  • tiina tiala says:

    I’m Finnish, living in Finland, and I think we use less plastic than you do, but still lot of products come packed in plastic .. thanks to your blog, I am going to choose the non-plastic alternatives when ever I can, and actually look forward to it.. maybe even keep a little notebook for myself about it! Not ready for a big change like you do, but every little bit helps, right?

    • I absolutely agree that every little bit helps- and I’m so excited that you will keep a journal about it! I hope you’ll check in and share some of your experiences here. I’d be curious to hear what is different and what is the same between our cultures- because garbage seems to me to be incredibly cultural.

  • Julia says:

    Do coffee places accept people bringing their own reusable cups?
    I (and husband too) have a glass Keep Cup that I use for takeaway coffee and if I don’t have it with my I either don’t get a takeaway or I make time to sit in the cafe and drink my flat white.

    They are very common in New Zealand and some cafes have a discount if you use your own take away cup (50c off) and some don’t actually offer takeaway cups any more!

    Also the whole family have reusable metal drink bottles so no one water in plastic bottles.

    • Yes- interestingly enough coffee is one of the few things you can often bring into an American establishment and they will fill it for you without worrying about being blamed if you have a problem with cleanliness ie get sick. Of course, I suppose this is because coffee isn’t as prone to contamination as, say, meat or fish. So far all the supermarkets I’ve asked- deli counters and butchers, have all said they can’t use my container because of regulations. But your point about to coffee go cups is a good one, and I really like your idea of choosing between going without and making time to enjoy it right there… One of my biggest pet peeves is when I am drinking my coffee there- tell them so- and they STILL put it in a paper cup!! Gak.

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