Lately I’ve been thinking about Little House on the Prairie. Not the books, but the show, with Melissa Gilbert and her pigtails flying.
One of my favorite characters was Mr. Olsen. Not because he was so nice and long-suffering, with the noisy wife and spoiled children. No, I remember him because of his store. Inside there were rolls of fabric, barrels of flour and buckets of hard candy. If you wanted bread or eggs or something else, you brought in your basket, and wrapped it in a flour-sack towel and carried it home.
Even when I was young, we used brown paper grocery sacks. We had a bag of bags, in a cupboard underneath the counter. Mom always kept potatoes and onions in sacks in that cool, dry place too.
I went shopping, for tomatoes and salad at Marks and Spencer Food. They were all sealed in plastic. Six vine tomatoes from Kent, in a plastic box, wrapped in cellophane. Rocket salad in a bag, triple washed for me, ready to eat. The cashier swiped my plastic card and put my plastic groceries in a plastic bag.
In the morning, now, I put on my make-up. Or at night, I take it off. I wash my hair and condition it, then I put more glop on it, to give it shine. I tone and I floss and I deoderize. I shave, brush, spritz, scrunch, mousse, and spray. Plastic razor, plastic bottles, plastic tubes.
All the wonders of the world, all the secrets of beauty, the perfection of nature, encased forever, like Eva Peron. The contents are lifeless: it’s the container that gives it meaning.
I tear at and twist the bottles, boxes and bags, then toss them in the bin. It seems, if I close the lid, they aren’t really there.
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