My parents are what you might call over-preparers. My Dad has a document with every item of value that they own, when they acquired it, what they paid, and a comparative item priced at an antique store (with date, name of store and proprietor) for items they inherited. He keeps a copy of this list with a picture of each item in a safety deposit box. This makes the old shoebox full of faded, water-stained receipts in the top of my closet look amateurish somehow…
My Mom is the purchaser of household necessities and, my God, they will never be without toilet paper or soap. I opened the linen closet searching for a cotton ball the last time I was home and, instead, found eighteen 24-packs of toilet paper filling the top shelf. They have enough toilet paper to cover all the poops of a lifetime and just as many bars of soap. (How ever will they use all that soap?!) My mom is already the owner of a “soap saver” – essentially a net with a drawstring where you insert your old slivers of bar soaps that have gotten tiny so you can make sure to get your money’s worth out of every last scrap of soap. No, really.
It’s as if she thinks there will be a soap shortage sometime in the near future. If this takes place, be sure to stop by my parents house to plead your case. If your need of a bar of soap is convincing – really, really convincing – perhaps she will send you on your way with a fresh bar and a “soap saver” of your very own, and you can count yourself among the few, the proud, the ones who don’t stink.
This stockpiling of products brought to mind some significant differences between my generation and those before us. My parents have a pantry STACKED with non-perishables – including Tang, which Mom uses to make “spiced tea” every winter – and enough frozen meat and pecans from their trees (shelled, ziplocked and dated) to get them through at least a year if there were an apocalypse. All of the perishable food can be found in two refrigerators, the second one located in the garage and surrounded by baskets of root vegetables, more unshelled pecans and cases of Pepsi. They’ve got one of the major apocalyptic challenges already checked off their list. (Supplies). That coupled with the miscellaneous – and sharp! – farm implements my father has strategically hung in the garage (Adequate Weaponry), all they’d have to worry about is fending off the zombies…and hungry neighbors.
Brian and I, on the other hand, are the “go to the grocery store every night” people. We decide what we want for dinner spur-of-the-moment, and we go to the store for that and that alone. We are too lazy – er, busy – to make a list and go bulk shopping on the weekend. How do you expect me to plan on Saturday what I’ll want for dinner on Wednesday? Who do you think I am? Professor Trelawney? While Beef Stroganoff might’ve seemed like a good idea in pre-planning mode, when I hit midweek, what if I want Maple Salmon instead? Beef Stroganoff is not Maple Salmon, friend. Not in flavor profile. Not in texture. Not even close.
Whew, that whole imagined scenario just stressed me out…
Given that we shop nightly, we and those of our ilk wouldn’t last more than two days with the food you can find in our pantry. We’d be so weak from hunger that we couldn’t run, let alone fight off the hordes of zombies rotten-elbowing their way into our home. If we made it to the third day (and that’s a big if), we’d be eating old packets of taco mix and eying each other like a side of ham.
I have a theory that the generational difference has something to do with The Great Depression. Stick with me, here. My grandparents were also known to keep an incredible amount of non-perishables around, as well as twenty dollar bills here and there tucked in between pages of books as “emergency money”. (Man, did I think I’d hit the jackpot the first time I found one of those. Until I was reprimanded for potentially keeping my grandparents from getting adequate medical attention down the road if money was tight. That’s a hard lesson when you’re 7-years-old and holding a crisp twenty, visions of adding to your LEGO empire clouding your judgement.) I suppose it’s not peculiar, after having been through a time when most of the country was out of work and food was hard to come by, to plan ahead and sock things away.
My grandparents lived in Kansas and had a basement for refuge from tornadoes and storage of musty old luggage and canned goods. This basement was a source of conflicting emotions for me as a child – it was my cool hideout during the day and a place of unbelievable terror at night. The sound of trickling water was constant, and dark storage crevices lined the perimeter. I always felt like I was being watched by something hiding in those dark crevices, so I stuck to the middle of the room. Late in the night, I’d lay in the dark spare bedroom, my eyes wide and my heart pounding, convinced that every creak was the heavy wooden basement door opening as the “Creature From The Crevice” came to seek me out… Usually, it was just Grandma’s water pill kicking in and forcing her up in the wee hours. To wee.
Grandma would send me to the basement to pick out a can of green beans for dinner, along with a stern warning about botulism. (Always, always avoid cans that have puffed lids). Cans lined the shelves, the date of purchase marked with a sharpie on top so you would use the oldest one first, maintaining a fresh rotation. Along with the store-bought version, there were also home-canned vegetables. Mom and Grandma would go blackberry picking and make homemade jams, steaming up the kitchen for a full day as they wax-sealed jars in boiling water, red-faced. My paternal Grandpa had a vegetable garden, and Mom would use his abundance of tomatoes to make salsa (the best I’ve ever had, hands down) and canned tomatoes. She also pickled okra.
And, once again, I’m shown up by my elders. My accomplishment of making brownies (out of a box) last night seems weak and ineffectual in comparison.
With all these canned goods and the true identifier of the well-prepared – a transistor radio – my grandparents could’ve maintained a decent, if vitamin D-deprived, existence in the basement (Fortified Shelter) for at least a few months.
I don’t have a basement. I have an attic. It’s currently about 118 degrees up there among the drooping Christmas wreaths and the bug-or-rodent-poop (we’re not sure which). I shudder to think that’s my last option for a stronghold. How fast does dehydration kick in?
Also distressing is the fact that our house is FULL of windows. The natural light was a big seller to us when we found the place, but now it seems like a disadvantage. I try and I try, but I cannot figure out where we would get the wood to board up the first floor if the apocalypse were to charge at us tomorrow. (Home Depot is closed in the event of an apocalypse. I checked.) The bedroom and closet doors will only go so far in covering the fourteen first-floor windows mocking me with their sunshine and false sense of safety.
That’s really beside the point. All the wood in the world will do us little good if all we have to eat is old red and green Christmas cookie sprinkles from 1997. If we starve within the first week, all my knowledge of zombies and zombie survival would just go out the window. What a waste.
Time to make my shopping list.