2010, Personal


My family has some odd traditions, like any family. One of them is this:

Though my step-dad buys groceries nearly every Saturday morning without fail (except in the summer time), he does not buy milk when he shops. We have always bought our milk from the local convenience store, ever since we moved into their current house. This has continued to this day. It used to be my brother’s and my chore to buy the milk. My step-dad didn’t want to have to make that trip too, understandably, and my mom did lots of other things. They reasoned, fairly enough, that one of us should do it. And we did. As teens we might have avoided it like the plague. We might have fought over doing it so it didn’t get done. But this is a long time ago.

Now, my brother has moved back home and I visit occasionally – once or more a month, depending on what I’m doing, what’s on TV, and the like. Since my brother has moved back, the chore has come back to him. But since he’s got lots of work to do – as he is in school – it falls to me if I’m around. That’s fine. I have no issue with that. But the consumption of milk in this house is low when only my parents are in it. My step-dad uses milk for cereal and occasionally for cooking. My mother uses it for the same. They stopped buying the 4 litre jug when we moved out. Now that my brother is back they buy it again. 4 litres is a lot of milk for cereal and the occasional ingredient in dinners and desserts.

Because of our delinquency with milk as teenagers, my parents have developed the habit of putting the milk jug in ridiculous places in order to ensure we notice. It has sat on the radiator next to the door, it has sat in the sink, it has sat on the counter, on the kitchen table; you get the idea. This may have been necessary when we were teens, I don’t really understand how it is necessary to get all passive aggressive with adults, particularly adults who don’t even live there any more, but just visit occasionally. The other odd thing they do with regard to the milk is, to ensure its speedy refill, they empty the dregs into a glass. This makes sense when there is less than a glassful in a milk jug and and more is needed right away, but when there is lots of milk left and/or no milk is needed in the foreseeable future of the next few hours, it is hard to understand. But people get stuck in their habits…

So, last Saturday morning I come downstairs, hungover, to make some tea and perhaps some breakfast. My step-dad is off grocery shopping. There I see an empty milk jug tottering on the edge of the sink, looking like my breath might tip it into the sink or onto the kitchen floor. Totally unnecessary. An empty milk jug anywhere in the house sends the same message, why balance it precariously on the sink? Or why not leave a note? That would suffice, if milk was actually needed. I soon find out it isn’t.

Since they are going out for dinner this night, the next person who will need milk is my mom, for breakfast. She will use 1/3 of a cup or even less. She doesn’t consume a lot. Like many women she is somewhat lactose intolerant. (As an aside, what is with that epidemic of lactose intolerance?) The next time milk will be needed after that is Sunday breakfast. (Maybe, depending on what they eat.) Twenty-something hours away. But alas, milk must be picked up now, or it will never be picked up; you know how these teenagers are… I open the fridge, as I often do when trying to figure out what to have for breakfast, figuring I can’t have scrambled eggs, unless I’m willing to walk to the convenience store at 8 AM on Saturday. That would be fine, if I really desired scrambled eggs enough. I don’t. But it turns out that I can still have my eggs.

Sitting in the fridge is a beer stein full of milk. It is so full the saran over the stein is sticking to the top of the milk. It is hard to see how this wouldn’t be considered enough to leave in the jug. One of the things I hate about this practice of putting the last milk in a glass is that it makes it ridiculously hard to pore, especially when you’re hungover.

Seeing the stein, I decide on scrambled eggs. I try to pore the milk into my eggs and I pour it all over the counter, and down the side of the stein (which always happens). I have to clean up the counter and the sink, none of which would have been necessary had the milk been left in the jug for another hour. (Imagine that, another hour…but then when would someone get the milk?! Panic!) After cleaning off the glass as well, I move to place it back in the fridge. On the ledge where it was sitting I see milk everywhere. When a liquid touches saran it tends to move along the saran. This milk had done that, somewhat predictably enough. The beers in the fridge, and the sauces, were sitting in a puddle of milk. So really, there was not just a beer stein full of milk in the jug, but more than a beer stein full of milk left in the jug. I clean up the fridge, the beer bottles, the sauce bottles. I am exasperated; more so because I am hungover and this was the last thing I wanted to do. The only thing I can think of is ‘Why?’ ‘Why was any of this necessary?’  There is no answer beyond custom, as far as I can figure. But many customs have been and should be overturned. New circumstances should bring, and often require, change. Would the milk not have been purchased in the next 24 hours had it not been emptied into the stein on Saturday morning? Of course not.

I didn’t mention any of this to anyone that morning. I didn’t want to fight with my parents (I was hungover) and I couldn’t tell Warren because they were there when he got up. But I was exasperated. Now it seems silly, but I can totally see it happening again.

And my step-dad didn’t even succeed in his mission. I beat it back to Hamilton before I could be made to buy the milk (I know, such a lazy guy) and my brother had work to do. I think my mom was going to Bloor and so she got it. Which is the other thing I should mention. Somebody goes to Bloor at least once a day each weekend. Somebody would have passed the convenience store regardless of whether or not this elaborate system to ensure milk is purchased was ever enacted. A note would have been a whole lot easier and better.

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