Dancing on Egg Cartons

Once upon a visit to my childhood home, my grandmother winced to watch me toss into our kitchen garbage bin an emptied Styrofoam egg carton (remember these? the shapely squeaky cups seemed to ask, no matter how matter-of-fact you fondled them).

I winced as I watched her reach under our kitchen sink, into the stinking trash to retrieve the carton—to bring it back into the light of use, but differently.  For she then set it on the floor, and stepped to it—stepping on it—each squelching shell popping beneath her small feet dancing, until the carton was a cartoon of itself, flattened. 

Now it could be trashed better, and she laughed to see me stunned by the world more neatly wasted.

(Of course she died—and as I write this I do believe she liked dancing this way: to think how much more good could come to fill the space [she] left behind.)

photo by the author

photo by the author

Years pass and compression complicates the matter.  Landfills rise to the surface of someone’s memory, sometimes beautifully.  My wife, born and raised in Tokyo, never met my grandmother of the farmlands of Cambridge, Ohio.

But in the first weeks after living together in an apartment, I laughed to see my wife better sort what I threw away: out into the same sun of my childhood came the egg carton (no longer Styrofoam, but cardboard compressed).  And down on the kitchen floor she danced over it, the same unlikely steps matter-of-fact, exacting the past and the future, the East and West of the curve, shaping the heaping land filled to bursting with the collective stuff of memories—

She danced this way over-and-all-through the thing, laughing.

"Universal waste like batteries and lighting equipment should not be mixed in with regular trash,” Terence Huber learned lately, and removed lighting equipment from his usual curbside pick-up in Lakewood, Ohio.  Out of the darkness, other works of his will appear or have been published in American Letters & CommentaryDenver Quarterly and Great Lakes Review.