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Who will buy the toilet paper?

Sat., Sept. 16, 2006

Standing in the back aisle of the Dollar Tree in Coeur d’Alene, I stare at the blue-and-white six-pack of toilet paper. Today is the eve of my daughter’s wedding, and all I can think to do is stand here, staring at the colorful packages of rolls of soft, fluffy paper arrayed on the shelves before me.

There are so many silly little memories attached to toilet paper. Discussions about whether the paper should drop from the front side of the roll or the back side of the roll. Discovering that the last person in the throne room used the last sheet and left an empty roll. (Thank goodness for the box of tissues.)

But today I find myself thinking about who is going to buy toilet paper in my daughter’s new family. Will she be the one to buy it or will her husband? Today is one of the few times I’ve gone shopping for T.P. since I married 28 years ago. How silly is this? And today of all days, all I can think is I must buy toilet paper. Ayah! I’m so glad people can’t read my thoughts!

Actually I don’t really have very many thoughts today. Just lots of memories. Like this toilet paper thing. There really is a noncrazy reason for this nonfetish with bathroom paper. And it really is connected to marriage. You see my husband and I will have been married 29 years this coming Feb. 14. Yes, that’s Valentine’s Day. But the point is we’ve had a real marriage. We’ve had enough fighting to enjoy making up and enough agreeing so we enjoy a good disagreement occasionally.

And then there were the times – years ago – that I’d packed his bags or my own and left. Today I am thinking about our 12th year of marriage. That was a tough year!

I was fed up with marriage and my husband. I packed the kids and myself and I moved to Virginia. Back to Mom and Dad. They have a huge house deep in the country. It was a complete opposite to our living in a city of 98,000 people, which was part of the burgeoning San Francisco Bay Area with it’s millions of people.

The country was green and smelled like honeysuckle and blueberries. Relatives, uncles, auntie’s and cousins lived everywhere. And they visited all the time. Once the children tried to play a game of tag, saying, “Let’s make it a game of the cousins against the noncousins.” But they couldn’t find enough noncousins to make it work. They finally had to count off.

There were lots of differences from the city, like – bugs. Large bugs, small bugs, ones that pinched and ones that stunk. And dirt, everywhere there was dirt. Of course, the cousins said it was sweet-smelling dirt and the bugs didn’t count, but the kids weren’t convinced. Frankly they missed their concrete sidewalks and to them the only good bug was a dead bug. And they said the true sweet smell was that of ozone in the air and fumes from the passing cars or from oil refineries.

I decided we needed to be busier. I took them blueberry picking and afterward we had a hot dog roast on a sand bar in the middle of the James River. It was a gritty and hot afternoon. On the way home we stopped at the Petersburg Wal-Mart for cool drinks.

We enjoyed strolling thought the air-conditioned aisles. We found our drinks and spent some time there. But the thing I remember the most is staring forever at an extra large package of toilet paper on the household paper goods aisle before I realized that I had to actually pick up the pack and put it in my shopping cart.

I don’t know how married people get into unspoken agreements in their marriage. You know the ones. I’ll do this and you do that – I’ll buy this and you buy that. Well, for the first 12 years of our marriage Bill had always bought the toilet paper. I never gave it a thought, other than noticing that occasionally the brand would change or it changed from a plain style to a quilted style.

That day, standing in Wal-Mart I came to understand that I was now the person in charge of remembering to buy this vital element of life.

Thank goodness I didn’t have that assignment very long because Bill and I made up and have worked through 17 more years of marriage. He continues to buy the toilet paper. And now 28 years have passed.

Tonight for some reason I decided to wander in this Dollar Tree. I don’t know if I actually will buy toilet paper. We have plenty on the shelf at home. But standing here staring at the blue-and-white six-packs I am filled with silly memories and I wonder. Who will buy the toilet paper in my daughter’s new family?

Postscript: I asked Kelly who was going to buy the toilet paper in her family and she said: “What toilet paper?”


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