Sunday, November 11, 2012

Flashbacks in a Box

Tonight I made Rice-A-Roni (the San Francisco Treat!) for the first time in ages, with "ages" defined as quite possibly not since junior high or high school when I'd get the occasional phone call from my Mom (who was at work) saying to start dinner, usually Hamburger Helper or Rice-A-Roni.

After graduating college and setting up my own kitchen and independent life, I rebelled against boxed supper kits and baking mixes. I didn't see that they save much time and it's less expensive to stock the components separately because they always have a multitude of uses.

Months ago, on a whim, I bought a box of Rice-A-Roni that was on clearance. It sat in the pantry, bypassed meal after meal as pasta, ramen and the ingredients for homemade soup were chosen instead. That poor box of rice dinner was living my public school gym class experience for my entire K-12 academic career.

One Sunday, I debated the merits of grocery shopping, a trip to PetSmart to exchange Winston's new harness that is too small, and a trip to Goodwill for "new" cardigans for work, against a strong desire to not spend any more money in a weekend that already included two nights out and a hair salon visit. The stay home to not spend more money options included glamorous chores like raking more leaves (ultimately overruled by high winds) and multitasking TV movies by using the commercial breaks for trips to the basement to deal with laundry and schlepp up boxes still unpacked from one or more previous residential moves and quite possibly not needed for yet another move.

The Publix flyer had already been studied and the grocery list made, but going to the store would have meant laying out money and defying my no-spending day. Even worse, I would've missed half of "Shall We Dance?" starring Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere. Consequently, the list was set aside, and operaton "Possibly Pandora's Box" was launched.

A specific basement box containing computer stuff was chosen and carried up to the main living area without injury, which, halfway up the stairs, seemed almost impossible. The box contained home office stuff including disks (yes, pre CD square disks) full of my writing from three long-abandoned computers and as many as 15 years ago. I need to take the disks to work to transfer the documents to a more user friendly medium. The long bypassed, kitchen box of Rice-A-Roni memories was chosen from the Lazy Susan cabinet because, as long as I was going through the contents of an old box from a previous chunk of life, it might be fun to layer on a sauteed rice flashback.

I remember this costume, but not this version of me.
As the smells of family suppers long ago began to waft from the kitchen, next door in the living room, the basement box of mysterious computer stuff was opened. A treasure trove of visual memories was pulled out when I found two photo albums underneath the computer disks.

One album had been made by my Mom for my birthday years ago. It contained a lot of ephemera of my young life, including the hospital bill from when I was born, the birth record for baby "Girl Simonds" with my tiny baby footprints and birth time and weight, the birth notice in the newspaper and dozens of photos and report cards from kindergarten through sixth grade, plus some from high school. It even had my baptism and Sunday School promotion certificates.

I thought the movie about dressed up people dancing made me cry? HA! I obviously didn't know the water works would be on full force from looking at photos from birthday parties and ballet recitals. It kills me that I don't remember being that quiet looking little girl in all those images. All I can do now is wonder who the heck she was, why she's wearing all my cute little outfits, and how I ended up so far from home, sitting on a couch all alone eating Rice-A-Roni.

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