I’ve never been a big fan of leftovers--probably because of the way Mom would store whatever remained after our dinners (or at least, the “homemade” ones, as opposed to the frozen Swanson variety that was our usual fare). Very appropriately, we ALWAYS ate our meals in front to the television set, so in a way every dinner at Cunningham’s was a TV dinner. Joanie would crumple up a piece of foil and sort of loosely drape it over the pan containing our entrée leavings (either dried-out baked chicken or dried-out meatloaf). The refrigerated result was guaranteed to be extra dried-out the following night. Yum!
When our kids were little, we rarely had leftovers (this was especially true during the boys’ “formative” years, where they seemed to be “forming” out of endless mountains of groceries.) If there were any extras, I could count on my husband to scarf them down for lunch. Even now, when I thriftily make a double batch of whatever, I am never really tempted to eat the same menu again on Night #2. As always, Stevo to the rescue! Sometimes I need to remind him that the leftover fish was from a week ago Tuesday and might not be the safest choice today. His response is to give the dish a whiff, taste it, and proclaim, “It’s still fine!” To be fair, he hasn’t been poisoned yet, although I do expect that to happen at some point.
My disdain for leftovers does not end with food. I vastly prefer new clothing to second-hand, because I’d much rather be the first one to encounter these items. Not being Mrs. Moneybags, I do of course wear my sweaters and jeans (lots) more than once—but I do read with envy about the vast closets of the Rich and Famous, who are rarely seen garbed the same way twice.
As I approach the midway point of my seventh decade, it is easy to think of what remains of my life as mostly “leftovers”—that I will probably spend most of my final years recycling old habits, opinions, tastes. Not enough time to become a brain surgeon or astronaut or major league ball player, right? So I might as well tread water (figuratively speaking, as I am a lousy swimmer.) But then I remember how I feel about leftovers; I recall this right around the moment I remember the latter-day blossomings of Grandma Moses and Colonel Sanders.
And so these days I am freshly inspired to keep going, to keep trying new things. To keep growing, as a writer and as a person. Most of all, to remember that every minute of every day IS brand new. There is no such thing as a “leftover”—life is all beginnings, even in the midst of endings. Every day is a gift, a beautiful new scarf, a freshly-cooked feast. A source of wonder, never seen before.
Which is a poetic way of saying: Steve, you can finish up that casserole. I’m good.