Pack Rat Fever

Grabbing my green-handled broom, I began to wield it with quick, no-nonsense, perfunctory thrusts. The corn bristles flew across my kitchen linoleum. The speed of my movements made a dust bunny go airborne. Startled out of my preoccupation with planning what to do next, I stopped and watched the fluff of dust float back to the floor.

Driven by a draft coming from the kitchen window behind me, the dust bunny skittered like a living creature toward the dining room. Not wanting to try corralling the lint-created-creature with a broom, I went after the ball of fluff and plucked it off the floor by the scruff of its neck. Dropping it into the waste paper basket, I noticed that someone had thrown away an empty Parmesan container.

Fuming, I snatched the precious plastic bottle out of the basket. Someone I lived with was a very wasteful person! I ripped the plastic paper label off, and held the empty, clear plastic container up to admire it. The bottle’s green screw-on lid sparkled in the florescent lighting. One or two crumbs of dried cheese still clung to the bottom.

How could anyone have thrown this gem away? It had a great future…holding leftovers…storing tea bags…or perhaps filled with sugar so Tammie could use it at her dorm to sweeten tea. Turning to put this rescued treasure next to the kitchen sink, I spotted two plastic bottles on the clean side of the sink that matched the one in my hands. Opps! I had a couple already…ones that weren’t even being used.

Guiltily, I turned to toss the empty Parmesan bottle back into the garbage…but my hand wouldn’t open to release it. My fingers stayed locked around the plastic because I was suffering from a full-blown case of Pack Rat Fever!

Some people blithely throw out every empty box, jar, or bag that comes into their house as though there wasn’t a tomorrow. For those of us who suffer from Pack Rat Fever, though, life isn’t so simple. Each empty box, jar, or bag is seen as a pivotal part of the future. We know that a desperate need for the item will soon occur and having it on hand will make the difference between surviving, or not!

My parents were married in 1934 during the great depression. They used everything they owned until there was nothing left to use and then they used it again. After living through that, I figure that my mother came by HER Pack Rat Fever honestly. That’s why I never could find fault with how she washed out plastic bags to use again over and over.

Rationing that was necessary during the Second World War has triggered Pack Rat Fever in many people. A few of my siblings remember ration cards and have developed a great skill in saving things which they are able pull out for use when needed…sometimes by the next generation!

Does Pack Rat Fever have a hereditary factor? I don’t think so. My case is probably a secondary infection by association. My closets bulge with clothes, boots, and mismatched mittens that I may never use. In the kitchen, shelves sag under the weight of ‘too much’, which includes more coffee cups than I have friends. Arnie tells me, “Throw some of that stuff out! Don’t be so cheap! You can buy what you want when you need it” He just doesn’t understand…it wouldn’t be the same.

In my non-feverish moments, I will admit that Arnie is right, “I have too much stuff.” Will I ever escape the grip of Pack Rat Fever? My only salvation lies in the cool autumn winds that visit each year during October, murmuring hypnotically at my windows, and inducing uncontrollable urges to clean my house.

The worst thing that could ever happen to a person who suffers with Pack Rat Fever, is to actually find a use for something! It vindicates all that they ever felt about the necessity to save. When helping Tammie pack to leave for college recently, she innocently asked, “Mom, do you have a candy jar for my lemon drops?”

The following day while rooting around in the dark recesses of a kitchen cupboard, I accidentally came across a hidden and forgotten candy jar. The exhilaration I felt was scary. I did a victory dance as I presented it to my daughter.

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