Is this an object or a fixture? It’s an object of my affection? It’s an ugly, old-fashioned, grimy, sickly sea-green three-level lazy susan installed in a cabinet in my kitchen, by Captain Trickey.
Captain Everett Trickey owned our house before the previous owners, and he favored pop-up cutting boards, pull-out cutting boards, and fold-down ironing boards. All of these things move. Maybe as a naval captain he liked motion, and he brought his naval ways into the domestic realm. Clearly he liked to stow gear properly, tucking it out of sight. My father was a naval aviator, and he likes his house neat, too. Everything in its place. He was always a great post-baby visitor, because he scrubbed the kitchen and vaporized clutter. Dead flowers: poof! In his house, not only is every surface clean, but because he is married to a 747 pilot, the structure hums with complicated electrical systems for climate control and music. It’s relaxing to listen to “Margaritaville” out by their infinity pool, which is of course meticulously maintained. Their last house featured in-wall vacuuming, so you could open up a port in the wall, attach a hose and suck up stuff.
The built-in lazy susan is more my speed, ugly as it is. I just attacked it in a fit of cleaning mania, snatching up crumpled paper napkins, loose plastic utensilry, takeout ketchup packets, straws, containers with missing lids, baby spoons, melamine plates. (I know the war may come, but if those ketchup packets prove necessary, we will be in desperate circumstances anyway—which could happen, so should I save them? No!) We haven’t used baby spoons for years. Years! I felt some wifely fury, too, because even so-called ‘good husbands’ who do chores don’t deal with this category of cleaning. I’m down on the greasy paper napkin level here, the get-rid-of-ancient-granola level, the no-one-has-used this kind-of-shampoo-in-seven-years level of homely hell that husbands rarely descend to. When I’m done, though, and all the stacks of paper plates are collated, the plastic crap is in the recycling bin, and I force my family members to pretend to admire my work, the fury will have passed. That is one solid lazy susan.
I forced middle child to admire my cleaned-out cabinet, and he said, “That’s why we love you, mom.” Sarcastically. Husband said, “We have a built-in lazy susan?”
There were tabletop lazy susans in the American colonies, and a photo of one can be found accompanying a 1906 Good Housekeeping article called “Fatigue and Its Consequences” by Luther Halsey Gulick, M.D. “When we are tired we are not ourselves. A part of us has temporarily gone out of existence. What remains is something which belongs to a more primitive state of civilization….When a man is exhausted he finds it difficult to be patient. This is not his fault. It is because fatigue has forced him back a few hundred generations.” The lazy susan photo perhaps illustrates a remedy for fatigue, by making tabletop navigating easier. It is curious. How much easier does a lazy susan make the process of eating dinner? Could it truly address the grave problems of regressing three hundred generations?
Cleaning my lazy susan summons up the domestic subject of cozy versus claustrophic. I’ll let two writers duke it out.
1. closing lines of Eavan Boland’s poem, “Domestic Interior”:
But there’s a way of life/that is its own witness:/put the kettle on, shut the blind.//Home is a sleeping child,/an open mind//and our effects,/shrugged and settled/in the sort of light/jugs and kettles/grow important by.
2. excerpt from The Last American Man, Elizabeth Gilbert’s nonfiction account of Eustace Conway, a present-day wilderness inhabitant:
He made his water jugs out of the clay he dug from the basins of creeks, the same creeks where he bathed. He slept on the ground, on animal skins. He wove ropes out of bark and his own hair….His teepee was wonderful—a fort and a temple, a home so satisfyingly light and transient that it had none of the psychological impact of a house’s overstability.
Someday I would like to paint the insides of my cabinets in luminous colors, a different shade for each one, so it would be like opening a treasure box. I’ll pretend we live in Mexico again, and choose canteloupe, palest green, deep blue.