EACH SUNDAY I drag our two huge trash bins, one at a time, from inside the garage, down the driveway and out to the street for Monday morning pickup. One is for garbage and the other, larger still, is for recyclables. Then on Monday morning I drag them back, empty. Our driveway, covered with pebbles, is long enough to park four cars. Getting the bins out can be a tricky task under some conditions, but it’s my job; always has been and always will be.
When I took them out this afternoon I encountered a neighbor who was cheerily photographing the lovely gardens in full bloom along our street. “That’s quite a chore you’ve got,” she said, sounding sympathetic and looking more than a little horrified. “Can’t you get your husband to do that?” I shrugged and replied that I didn’t mind, adding, “It’s one of the ways I know I’m still alive.” She laughed, not understanding that I was completely serious.
I love taking out the garbage. In fact, it’s high on my short list of favorite things to do, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a cliché-buster, since the man of the house is supposed to take out the garbage and the nagging wife is supposed to remind him since he’s busy watching football and forgot. But the better reason is that it’s actual, down-to-earth work that needs to be done, sometimes requiring strength when the bins are filled with heavy items, and other times, like in winter, incredible agility. Come rain, sleet, snow and all the rest of that postman thing, I remain undaunted and get it done.
I’m actually dreading the day when I can’t. This has happened rarely, but it’s happened. A year ago I had hip replacement surgery and missed the trip back with the empty cans, since my surgery was on a Monday and I had to be at the hospital before the trash was picked up. The next week I missed the whole thing, needing a walker and not quite recovered enough to even leave the house. I was bereft, since I considered taking out the garbage an indicator of my overall health and well-being. By the next week I was back at it, deaf to my husband’s pleas that I wasn’t ready and to let him do it. But I managed, leaning on the full trash bins on the way out and my cane on the way back. I did this twice, one for each bin, and by the time I was finished I could have used a stiff drink. (Sadly that was not permitted since I was on blood thinners, but anyway, at least I knew I was on the mend.)
Over the last eight years, taking out the garbage has become a physical test of will. These Maine winters are certainly challenging, with deep snow and black ice blanketing the driveway for months. Still, I pull on my boots, crampons, parka, hat, gloves and scarf and get out there and just do it! Accomplishing this in a raging blizzard or severe nor’easter is literally the only thing I do that reminds me of how hard ordinary life used to be, and still is for so many people.
It’s a good feeling.
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.