Whenever we have visitors to the house there is a box in the utility room that gets put outside the back door hidden away from view. It’s not entirely different from closing the door to the children’s play room, or study room now, to protect sensitive eyes from the chaos therein. It gives an illusion of order and organisation. But for anyone who knows us, the opposite is the case. I console myself with the notion that it is the same in every house. There is always a room or a place where things are thrown into when visitors are expected. It’s all about illusions. Or maybe delusions. Whatever.
The aforementioned box that gets unceremoniously thrown outside the back door for fear of discovery is the box of empty bottles for recycling. My uncle always says the best time to go to the bottle bank is at 4am. There you can take your time chucking said bottles into the various bins without looking over your shoulder, without trying to fire two in together and without rushing the job so no one actually realises how many we have. All those bottles of wine, beer, and pasta sauce add up alarmingly quickly. Maybe I just don’t go often enough but that wretched box is always full.
I often wonder would I be judged more for the wine bottles or the jars of pre-prepared sauces. I can just imagine all the mammy experts, nutritional police and sugar campaigners’ tutting at me and shaking their heads and offering to adopt my poor neglected and malnourished children, fed as they sometimes are from jars. Imagine. Poor kids. Strangely enough they don’t look too nutritionally challenged. There are worse things I could be feeding them. They eat every vegetable, they lick the fruit bowl clean and are well able to cook meals for us all so I’m not that concerned about the odd jar of curry sauce or pasta sauce. But strangely enough, these offending items will be the first things to hide or cover up at the frighteningly judgemental day of reckoning at the bottle bank.
The judgers might also raise their eyebrows at the jam jars that line up for recycling. But they would be wasting their energy here too. The marmalade is homemade, by my mother, not me, of course, and the jam could well be sugar free for all they know. It probably isn’t but there’s always a possibility. So nothing to see there either. Move along.
Perhaps, it’s the brown labelled bottles or the long elegant green bottles that will cause the most consternation for those who care to judge. But then again they could be bottles of lemonade, apple juice or non-alcoholic beer. Who knows? Again, the likelihood is slim but there is always a chance. Sometimes, after a particularly long spell of accumulating bottles and jars and growing little glass families, I feel like I need to prepare a sign to hold up while I’m there going about my business. This sign will clearly absolve me of all responsibility and ownership as I will state that the box is part of a neighbourhood collection and I am clearly only carrying out my community duty. Whether they believe me or not is immaterial, I will still feel better as I toss in the bottles, taking out all my frustrations as I furiously chuck them in and hear the satisfying shatter. Although maybe my uncle is right and just to skip all this subterfuge and skulduggery I will actually creep to the bottle bank at 4am in clever disguise and chuck away to my heart’s content. But again, there is always the slight possibility I could be over thinking this. Wouldn’t be like me at all….