Unmarked boxes, butter bowls add adventure to storage

Burt's Eye View

There’s treasure in my garage. Well, there might be. It’s hard to tell. I never finished unpacking when I moved in 20 years ago.

When we ran out of room in the house, I shoved the final unopened cardboard boxes into far corners of the garage. They’re still there.

These days when we store stuff in the garage, we pack it into stackable storage boxes. I know what’s inside the tubs because I can see through the clear plastic.

But the old boxes are brown cardboard sealed with packing tape. And I don’t remember what’s inside.

You might ask why didn’t I label them. I did. That’s the problem. It was me.

Since I hate to let a perfectly good chance for nonsense to pass me by, the boxes are marked “Cement Blocks, Anvils and Rocks,” “Super Hero Secret Identity Kit,” “Colonel Sanders’ Secret Recipe” and “Do Not Open Until Christmas.”

I thought I was being amusingly clever. Now I’m afraid to peek. I have a vague memory of stuffing stinking laundry into a moving box and the last of the garbage into another.

When I’m feeling either bored enough or brave enough, I’ll rip open one of those mystery boxes. As a warmup, I’m practicing on margarine bowls in the refrigerator.

Pretty much every refrigerator I’ve ever known includes among the groceries a dozen or so plastic tubs marked Cool Whip, French onion dip, potato salad or butter spread. There’s an outside chance they actually do contain Cool Whip, French onion dip, potato salad and butter spread.

But with my mom, it was far more likely they were filled with leftover rigatoni, leftover green bean casserole, leftover meatloaf and leftover green stuff that didn’t used to be fuzzy.

Dad was into recycling too. He took our emptied baby food jars, nailed the lids to the bottom of shelves, sorted his nails, bolts, hooks and nuts into the jars and screwed them onto the nailed-in-place lids. Then I could help him in the shop:

“Son, hand me a 3/8-inch nut. I mean, a cream of broccoli. And I’ll need a couple creamed beef and carrots in a minute.”

The baby food jar recycling system helped. The dairy case recycling system in the fridge turned midnight snacks into a Russian roulette of nutrition. You could dish up a plate of AA batteries or fishing bait.

Once, I helped our host assemble a post-Thanksgiving feast culled from bowls of various shapes and colors. I loaded up on turkey salad, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, and other leftovers all stored in dairy product bowls.

Suddenly, I was stuck. I stood at the open fridge door, searching high and low with a hungry stare.

“What can’t you find?” our host asked.

“I can’t find the butter.”

“It’s right there in front in that blue bowl,” she said. “The one marked ‘butter.'”

Fooled me completely.

My fear is that one day I will open the old boxes in the garage and find them crammed full of margarine bowls. In that case, I’ll retape the boxes and hide them in someone else’s garage. Don’t open it until Christmas.

— Organization isn’t one of Cole’s strong suits. Send leftover advice to him at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.