When I was five or six my mother threw a Tupperware Party. A confetti of plastic bowls and lettuce crispers filled a couple of card tables. My father helped her unpack the boxes and arrange the array of storage containers with air-tight lids. There were punch-red pitchers and butter keepers. There were canister sets with spiral imprints. Juicers, measuring cups, cake storers, picnic sets, strainers, salt ’n’ pepper shakers, and oversized salad tongs. There were tall cylindrical containers for spaghetti and oblong ones for storing cereal. Funnels, cookie cutters, and Tupperware rolling pins along with a pastry sheet displaying concentric circles to help measure pie crust. Ice-Tups were special molds for making freezer pops.
My mother worked two days straight preparing fancy hors d’oeuvres and appealing appetizers. Saltine crackers with cream cheese peppered with pimentos and goose liver pate on little rye toasts and whipped deviled eggs to highlight the Tupperware deviled egg carrier. Mom made a special trip to Esther Price candy shop for some of their prize bridge mix.
Come the night of the party and the living room was full of chattering women. My father, I remember, retired to the bedroom to read the newspaper. I was supposed to be in bed, but peeked through the crack in the door. My mother called the room to order and proceeded to give a sales pitch. I could tell she was nervous—especially when she tried to demonstrate the patented burp seal. Her sweaty fingers had a hard time grasping the tab. There was no whoosh.
After everyone left I crept out of my room, staying in the shadows, hoping to scavenge some leftover bridge mix. I especially loved the large chocolate-covered nuts, the ones Dad referred to as “nigger toes.” I spied Mom wearily sitting in a chair hidden behind a stack of bowls in Easter egg colors, her head in her hands.
Many of the display pieces ended up in our pantry. Growing up we always made orange juice in the ruby-red pitcher and the storage containers, used over and over, eventually changed color into a milky opaque. Mom kept a number of Tupperware bottoms and lids that never seemed to match. When my parents retired and moved, there were four or five boxes alone labeled Tupperware. And, every move after that we tried to lose Tupperware, but they seemed to have Tupperware babies. Finally, boxing up the stuff left in the cupboards when Mom moved to a nursing facility after Dad died, there was still so much. I remember standing alone in the echoey kitchen, the refrigerator humming away, turning over in my hands one of a dozen cereal keepers. I had no idea what I was going to do with all of them.
Jane Hertenstein’s current obsession is flash. She is the author of over 30 published stories, a combination of fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre both micro and macro. In addition she has published a YA novel, Beyond Paradise, and a non-fiction project, Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady, which garnered national reviews. Jane is the recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Hunger Mountain, Rosebud, Word Riot, Flashquake, Fiction Fix, Frostwriting, and several themed anthologies. She can be found at http://memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/.
Asked what old thing she would be, she replied, “I’d be a toothbrush, because whether old or new there are always many uses for a toothbrush.”
Back to Issue 2: Old Things