Gift Horses

PEG BRACKENis the pseudonym of Mrs. Roderick Lull of Portland, Oregon. Her verse, articles, and short stories have appeared in many magazines.


THE other day, as I pushed some small former cheese glasses and a tall former jelly container farther back on the cupboard shelf to make way for a glass mug which had once held peanut butter, it occurred to me that a new plastic arts movement has crept up on us from behind and taken most of us unawares. It might be called The Packagers’ Revolution in Home Decoration.

Moving my odd bits of glassware thoughtfully, like pawns on a chessboard, I had time to ponder the situation, because I happened to run into a clutch of small glass baking dishes which used to contain individual chicken pies, and I had to figure out. where to put them.

Not for anything would 1 sound ungrateful to the manufacturers with a Vision, who say to each other over the stout oak table in the Directors’ Boom, “Let us give our customers not only the best in peanut butter but also a reusable container!” I can see them in my mind’s eye, beaming mistily through the cigar smoke, proud with the good sort of pride that comes from giving a little more than one’s all, their throats a little choked up. But I wonder if they ever stop to visualize, in their mind’s eye, the poor faithful customer who loves their brand of peanut butter, wouldn’t buy any other kind, and is now being slowly pushed out of her kitchen by all their reusable containers.

It’s true, of course, and we must face it: women are at fault too. When a woman enters a grocery store, she leaves her finer self in the car outside. Shopping, she is a walking comptometer who needs no abacus to tell her what she saves when she buys 2 for 27 instead of 1 for 14. Her mind is equally agile when confronted by the equation of two same-priced brands of, say, sour cream, side by side, one in a cardboard carton and the other in a red plastic dish. It isn’t that she wants a red plastic dish, exactly, which makes her choose it instead of the cardboard carton. It’s just that well, after all, you get the dish free, and sometime you might need a little dish like that, you know, for the cat or something. . . .

It is only when the sour cream is gone, and the dish has been washed, and she notices that her breakfast table is beginning to look like something out of Libbey sired by DuPont, that she begins to bite her lower lip and wonder whither she is drifting.

What happens is this: either she stacks her reusable containers in her cupboard to gather dust, thinking to sort them and dispose of them someday — which she won’t — or else her pretty Swedish glassware gat hers dust while the family drinks out of oddsized mugs which are too small for beer and too big for orange juice; but they’re sturdy, you know, and you can’t just throw them away.

Perhaps, I thought, jumping a jelly glass over a pie dish in a neat maneuver which ended, however, in a stalemate — perhaps a better way would be for the glass and china people to get solidly into the act at the beginning. For instance, I wouldn’t mind paying fifteen dollars for a pint of peanut butter if it came in a Sleuben brandy snifter. And if aged Cheddar came on aged Haviland, it would be a lovely thing, with no permanent ha ngover beginning the following day.

However, I didn’t have time to follow the thought very far because I had to do my grocery shopping. I always go to that store across town because they sell raspberries in the cutest little green woven-looking plastic baskets you ever saw. Someday I’m going to take the twenty-seven of them which I now have and fill them with moss and ivy, and hang them on the porch. Or something.