Author Archives: Kim Peterson

Let’s Hear It for Garbage Collectors!

A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency declared we Americans generated 254 million pounds of trash in one year.

As a boy, my brother believed he had carried out all 127,000 tons — though practice didn’t make perfect. Ned dumped — accidentally, he still insists — the plastic container into the burn barrel, too. We kids loved watching it melt. Mom? Not so much.

Despite that innovation, taking out garbage wasn’t fun, not during steaming summers or icy winters.

Trash Day still isn’t fun. Especially if a person forgets, awakens, then dashes outside before realizing . . . pants would have been a good idea.

Once dragged to the curb, though, garbage disappears, right?

We want to forget the smelly, disgusting subject. Yet, what if the nearly 120,000 U.S. waste workers didn’t do their job?

Many New York residents still remember the 1968 sanitation department strike, when 100,000 tons of eggshells, Twinkie wrappers and medical wastes piled up while officials clashed with unions in a feud almost as nasty.

Inspired, my brothers tried to strike. Mom, however, proved even less flexible than Mayor Lindsay.

The New York workers proved more successful, obtaining a modest pay increase and bargaining rights. The yucky crisis ended, and urbanites, appreciating garbage haulers as never before, cheered their return.

Trash collectors’ greatest fans, however, are children. Our three-year-old grandson told his folks he wanted to grow up to be a garbage man. According to USA Today, Deacon Ross, a Texas toddler, considered their trashman his best friend. When he and his family had to move, his mother helped Deacon plan a goodbye gift for O Dee. However, I doubt she agreed to Deacon’s insistence they name their new baby after him.

When did I personally learn to appreciate trash collectors? Not until I worked an overnight shift at Denny’s. I grew to welcome garbage guys who drank 4:30 coffee every morning. After my night of placating recovering party people, the quiet, hardworking men, who always left dimes under coffee cups, presented a refreshing change.

I also have visited countries where gunky garbage in the streets is considered the norm and trash cans aren’t.

I’ve sworn off cheap bags that sometimes explode in the unlucky collector’s hands. Hubby, our personal hauler, also appreciates the change. I’ll thank him, maybe bake his favorite pineapple upside-down cake. For our faithful collectors who pick up trash in all kinds of weather, I’ll write a note of thanks or put out a plate of cookies.

Melted plastic trash can notwithstanding, I suppose I could thank my brother for his service all those years. …

Nah. That’s taking garbage gratitude a little too far.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Who takes out garbage in your household?

Vanity Versus Sanity Award

One day, upon fetching the mail, my husband all but sounded a trumpet as he waved a letter. “Guess what?”

Turns out, he’d won 2021 Doctor of the Year. Not only did the company promise to laud his superior work in syndicated publications, they offered a website where he could obtain a beautiful plaque to commemorate his many accomplishments as a radiologist.

“And I thought you’d done family practice for 41 years.” I crossed my arms. “All this time, you’d been a radiologist? What else haven’t you told me?”

“I didn’t know I was a radiologist, either,” Hubby said. “How nice of them to remind me. Though I might remind them I retired in 2019. And that my name isn’t spelled “P-H-I-L-L-I-P-P.”

“Picky, picky,” I said. “Here, they bestow this incredible honor, and you fuss about silly details.”

After all, nobody has sent me an award. I can think of several I could win, hands down:

  • The Technology Hates Me Award. I have no doubt I could win world honors.
  • The Ultimate Spreader of Potato Chips on the Kitchen Floor Award.
  • The Best Loser of All Important Items, including, but not limited to, purses, keys, IDs, visas, passports and passwords.
  • The Ratty Bathrobe Award, granted only to those who display a special talent for anti-romance fashion.

When I protested my marginalization, Hubby agreed. “You should have taken first place in every category.”

“Darn right,” I sniffled. “You’d think they’d at least give me an honorable mention in Garage Crashing.”

Hubby said gently, “As much as I’d love for you to receive all you deserve, too many awards in this household might get expensive.”

“Expensive?”

“Yep.” He brought up www.dr.phillipp.awesome.radiologist.com. “Seems they want me to pay for my plaque.”

“Pay?” My cheapo gene shriveled. “For an award?”

“Yes. And I’m not the only lucky winner in the world asked to contribute to his prize.”

Hubby showed me an article by Dino Jahić, editor-in-chief of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia. He was notified he’d received a special award — one he could pick up for only 4,750 Euros ($5,600) in “participation fees.”

At least, Hubby said, they spelled his name right. He tossed his own vanity award letter into the trash.

“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” said wise King Solomon in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. No doubt, God granted him sufficient smarts to realize he shouldn’t pay big bucks to inflate his ego.

After all, God gave Solomon his gifts, so why should he bribe the world to recognize him?

We aren’t obliged to pay them off, either. For those who love Him, God is always on the front row, cheering what we, with His help, accomplish.

Plus, He always spells our names right.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever received a vanity award?

My Fix-It Guy

First, never lose a phone. Especially in an airport, where tech-loving monsters lurk.

Five minutes after forgetting my phone, I dashed back. It already had landed in a monster’s maw.

My husband tracked my cell’s location. Still in that area! We searched until our flight began boarding.

No monsters. He/she must have morphed back into human form.

No phone.

Rather than pay for rescheduling, with a possible overnight stay, we flew home.

While my family will use a microwave until it makes us glow in the dark, Hubby comes from a family of fixers. They conquer all weird car noises. They can smell a suspicious flame from miles away. If a meteor dents their patio furniture, serenity — and restored furniture — soon return to their backyard.

So, once home, Hubby continued his mission. He attempted to contact the airport lost and found — kept as secret as the Federal Witness Protection Program. Upon finally unmasking the department’s identity, he learned they allowed no phone calls. He completed a complicated online form.

Lost and found did respond. Zero success.

Hubby ordered a new phone. However, rather than keeping my original number, as we requested, the company representative deactivated it. She buried it on the distant cyber-planet Zorxx, where no human had gone before.

Ack! Changing one’s cell number compares to switching universes. Or purses.

Still, I said, “If the new number doesn’t make me glow in the dark—”

“No, the company made the mistake,” Hubby declared. “They should fix it.”

He soon discovered our communication company, while short on communication, was adept at designing phone trees:

(Music plays. And plays. And plays.)

Recording: Welcome to Hope-You-Die-Before-We-Answer Company. To pay your bill, press one. If you are ecstatic with our service, press two—

Hubby: I paid our bill. I’m anything but ecstatic with your service.

Recording: Thank you. Press four for our 12-phone plan. Press five for our 24-phone plan. Press six—”

Hubby: If I have a complaint?

Recording: No, if you want to know what we had for lunch.

Hubby: I don’t CARE!

Recording: The caviar was delicious. Click.

(Music plays again. And again. And again.)

Recording: Welcome to Hope-You-Die-Before-We-Answer Phone Company. …

When Hubby finally forced himself to request the lunch menu, he made progress. Fourteen people gave him different advice. After three weeks, none had restored my phone number.

While practicing medicine, my husband fought government regulations regarding bandage width. He grappled with insurance demands that cancer patients, instead of battling disease with radiation, visit tanning beds.

I believed in my fix-it warrior. He would crash through red tape. Force them to retrieve my original phone number from the planet Zorxx.

I was right!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Who’s your family fix-it person?

Cleaning Combat

Who likes cleaning out refrigerators and freezers?

Not me. And especially, not mine.

But I refuse to feed my garden’s fresh veggies to whatever life forms lurk in fridge and freezer.

Confrontation time.

I review my checklist. Bucket of hot water and disinfectant. Rubber gloves. Body armor. Samurai sword. Hey, past-expiration yogurt gets testy when evicted.

The apron sewn by my husband’s grandma.

I also don an apron sewn by my husband’s grandma. A gentle soul, she nevertheless fought a fierce, lifelong war against germs and dirt.

Her brave spirit pokes me with a scrub brush. “Be strong!”

I straighten, grab my sword and slowly crack the fridge’s door.

Nothing stirs, but I’ve been fooled by silence before.

I throw it open wide.

Ack! Half-filled bottles of lavender salad dressing. Pudding that resembles petri dishes. Mashed potatoes that give a whole new meaning to the term “green vegetable.”

Did something move? A-a-a-a-a-ack!

My chance of survival seems better in the garage, where I slowly open the freezer. No tentacles. I lay down my sword, though I won’t remove body armor or apron.

I summon Golden Oldies to fool my back and muscles into thinking they’re young. A rhythmic tune boogies me across the garage: “Mission Impossible.”

My Cold War almost morphs into peaceful coexistence when the song changes to the “Purple People Eater.” Will Hubby return to find nothing but my eyeglasses and piles of defrosted food? Will he weep more for my demise or the expensive loss of pot roasts?

Thankfully, the music changes to the Star Wars theme: Da, da, da-da-da da da! Retying my mighty apron, I plunge into the freezer’s alternative universe.

White, amorphous, furry-looking packages meet my eyes, their age detectable only by carbon dating. Identifiable or not, each package/container evokes a question:

  • Why did I shred four dozen bags of zucchini? My husband hates zucchini bread.
  • Do Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys grow exponential sets of giblets?
  • Did this single serving of tuna casserole preexist with God in the beginning?

While pondering cosmic questions, I toss out piles of mystery food, moving to the pulsating background of “You’re No Good.” “A Hard Day’s Night” demands endless elbow “Grease,” but eventually the fridge, freezer and I graduate to “Splish Splash.” We revel in unfamiliar spotlessness.

I play H-O-R-S-E with the giblets, shooting them into trash cans. Alas, in attempting a three-pointer, I hit a garbage man.

He doesn’t seem to take my poor aim personally, though he dives for the truck. It roars off to background strains of “Hey hey hey, goodbye. …”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you done recent cleaning combat? (If not recent, I won’t tell.)

Not on My Bucket List

Have you made a bucket list?

I haven’t. Lists demand thought. Strike-throughs. Check marks.

(Yawn) Sloth — er, contentment — is so much more relaxing.

So is staying in a rut, retort alpha personalities.

Okay, okay. To inspire my grandchildren, I should aspire to higher objectives than counting dust bunnies.

After all, a fascinating world awaits me. Places to go. Things to do. Possibilities swirl through my brain like flocks of starlings. How can I choose a few among thousands of flapping, chirping alternatives?

Finally, I settle on a first step . . . what not to include on my bucket list:

  • I will never run for President. I’d spend 90 percent of my term trying to elude the Secret Service. Who wants their President to live in a dumpster? Bad deal for everyone.
  • I won’t brush with eggplant-flavored toothpaste.
  • I don’t plan to train as a snake milker.
  • I’ll never embrace a low-carb diet. Life without spaghetti? Home-baked bread? Surely, you jest.
  • Nor am I obsessed with memorizing all 49 Vice Presidents.
  • I will never — and no one else had better — line up Metallica to sing “Happy Birthday” to me.
  • Many wish to run with the bulls in Spain. Should this mad urge to sprint with bovines overwhelm me, I can always run with cows in Indiana.
  • I will never don skinny jeans. You’re welcome.
  • I’ve considered visiting England as a for-real bucket-list item. However, I won’t enter the World Worm Charming Championships in Willaston. There, hundreds of participants not only jab with pitchforks, but play ukuleles and clarinets to bring squirmy little friends to the surface. And, no, I am not making this up.
  • You will not see me drive in a NASCAR race. Walmart parking lots provide sufficient excitement.
  • I will never run a marathon in stilettos.
  • I refuse to cultivate Venus flytraps. Plants with teeth give me the willies.
  • Nor will I kiss frogs. I like kissing my husband too much. Besides, he’s already a prince.

I will never aspire to:

  • Rollerblade down Mount Rainier.
  • Chase tornadoes. I also prefer they don’t chase me.
  • Join Chocolate Haters of America.
  • Finally, though I like eating grits, I’ll never enter the Rolling in the Grits Contest in St. George, South Carolina. There, a contestant weighs, then hops into a kiddie pool filled with 27 cases of grits. The goal: to fill pockets and baggy clothes with the sticky Southern favorite. One champion emerged from the kiddie pool 66 pounds heavier! That alone convinces me it doesn’t belong on my bucket list.

This exercise only cuts my bucket list choices from a gazillion to a billion. But, hey, it’s a beginning.

And (yawn) so relaxing . . .

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you compiled a non-bucket list?

First Year on the Bus

On September days, I quadruple travel time, waiting behind school buses. The route doesn’t matter. My car is a bus magnet.

I’m never bored, though. A school bus at a stoplight entertains me more than Animal Planet.

I recall the first year Bus Number 3’s doors flapped open, when I scaled a steep stairway in early steps toward an education. I stopped dead at the top, nearly sending older brother Ned flopping backward.

The bus driver, Mr. Feeney, resembled a giant frog wearing a flannel shirt. Would he catch flies?

Nope. Shucks.

Instead, he nodded a silent greeting. When I dropped into a seat beside Ned, Mr. Feeney grunted, and my brother squawked. I was sitting on the boys’ side! I had violated The Aisle.

Why didn’t they color the girls’ side pink? I shrank into the seat behind Mr. Feeney. To my joy, a classmate soon joined me. Mary Jo and I sat there the remainder of the year. Why? With autumn’s arrival, the heater baked our ankles like apples.

Mr. Feeney often checked his big rearview mirror, from which he monitored the western hemisphere. He controlled our bus through the radio. When crowd noise reached 747-landing levels, he turned off “A Summer Place” or “Alley-Oop” or “Purple People Eater.”

Perhaps we six-year-olds found his big, red-and-black-checkered back comforting. Wiggly minnows in an ocean of big kids, we rode with teenagers big as God and my daddy.

Teen girls pushed cancanned skirts through narrow aisles. But these lost their goddess standing when I discovered their guy obsession. Didn’t they know about boy cooties? Still, I learned a whole new set of life skills, including “going steady,” by observing romance negotiations across The Aisle

            JIMMY’S FRIEND: Brenda, do you like Jimmy?

            (BRENDA hugs the window and stares at cows.)

            BRENDA’S FRIEND: She thinks he’s dreamy!

            (Snickers and catcalls from the boys’ side. JIMMY punches his FRIENDS.)

            (BRENDA’S FRIENDS giggle for 60 minutes straight.)

Undignified, almost indecent. Why didn’t Mr. Feeney do something?

After a girl bagged her male prey, official rules required she bring angora yarn aboard and wrap her prize: the boy’s ring. Those big, sparkly high school rings beat Cracker Jack® prizes every time.

Once, a lovesick couple sat together. The universe tilted. Mr. Feeney began to pull over, frightening the guilty parties into desperate dives back across The Aisle.

Now, waiting behind buses, I wonder if these children will follow one 50 years hence. No. By then, mothers will beam their kids to first grade.

At times, I wish I hadn’t spent hours riding school buses.

But think of all the education I would have missed.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did you ride a school bus as a kid?

Watermelon-Eating Essentials

There’s a right way to eat a watermelon. And then there’s the best way.

The right way: demote store-bought melons to chunks on fancy toothpicks or fake-looking balls. Eat in air-conditioned comfort.

The best way?

First ingredient

Order a summer day so hot that gooey blacktop shifts under your steps.

Second ingredient

Our family, uncharacteristically dressed up in this photo, are more at home lounging on this porch — one of the best places in the world for eating watermelon.

Reserve a screened-in porch with adequate waterproof seating for friends and neighbors, because the best watermelon is never eaten alone. Also, never serve it indoors. Irate mothers, who obsess about irrelevant issues like freshly mopped floors, will cut eating sessions short. Watermelon loses its flavor if eaten where consumers cannot also apply sticky juices directly to arms, legs or tummies.

Backyards, decks and parks present good watermelon-eating sites, but flies and yellow jackets — like some human relatives — come whether invited or not.

Third ingredient

Gather newspapers. My family has used these inexpensive, disposable watermelon-eating place mats for generations. If dampened sufficiently, newspapers imprint “City Sewer Plan Stinks” or similar headlines on new white shorts.

Last ingredient (but not least)

Harvest watermelons, bought not from strangers, but grown in one’s own patch — although my late father declared stolen ones the sweetest. As boys, he and his brothers patronized patches owned by Mr. Purvis Williams. Of course, when Dad amazed his Louisiana hometown by becoming a minister, he swore off such pastimes. Having returned as a 79-year-old retiree, however, he celebrated his first watermelon season back home by investigating local patches filled with fat, green-striped orbs almost bursting with juice.

The best patch’s owner: his new pastor.

Dad complimented him on his beautiful melons. The minister promptly invited Dad to help himself.

A Southerner himself, Dad understood the man was being lyin’-polite. Still posing as an ignorant Yankee, though, he took quick advantage. Dad raided the pastor’s patch. Despite tender consciences, we helped him devour the melon one sweltering July afternoon. It rated only semi-stolen, but I couldn’t imagine anything sweeter.

Still, this feast didn’t compare with those of my childhood, when Grandpa iced down a dozen from his garden in a horse trough. The entire family gathered, and every uncle, aunt and cousin received half a melon. After we finished, the adults, anticipating the imminent Watermelon Seed War, banished us kids to the yard, where we discharged our arsenals without harming any adults. Occasionally, a toddler stuck seeds up his nose. Always good for a little excitement.

Sometimes, Dad peeled thin green slices from the rind. Fashioning these into Billy Bob buckteeth, he gave us big, green-toothed grins.

Decades later, after we’d devoured the last luscious bite of his pastor’s watermelon, Dad saved the seeds to plant the next spring.

God help the rascally kid or retired minister who tried to steal his watermelons.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Is a watermelon feast one of your summer traditions?

Lunch-Packing Crunch

Packing school lunches this year?

I’ll send you a sympathy card. Plus insights gained from years of therapy.

Imagine an alien mother from the planet Zoraxx who never, in her 400 years, has packed even one lunch box. Her reaction: “Honey, what are you thinking? Sending bags of food to school cafeterias full of food?”

Interplanetary viewpoints aside, I feel your pain. I, too, packed lunches. Along with parents today, I allowed quivery-stomach, school-lunch memories to influence me. During the ’60s, school cafeterias provided no salad bars. No a la carte. Just meals that met 700% of federal fat requirements.

Sadly, my cruel mother refused to pack 25 lunches a week.

What attitude. She didn’t go to work or school. She needed activities to keep her out of trouble.

My parents also rationalized by saying a day’s worth of school lunches for five kids cost $1.25. We couldn’t eat hay for that price. They even had the gall to wish they, too, could enjoy school lunches.

Years later, I understood. My children’s school menus sounded delicious! Maybe because my own lunch consisted of a week-old Happy Meal and a half-chewed teething cookie. I tried to sneak into the school cafeteria line, but got carded. Sigh.

Given this perspective, what made me abandon the you-will-clean-your-school-lunch-plate-and/or-die approach?

Fear. My children weighed less than their tennis shoes. If each lost five pounds, teachers might mark them absent.

So, I ensured their survival by packing lunches. I remembered who ate mustard on the sandwich top, who ate mayonnaise on the bottom, and who considered Grey Poupon the devil’s recipe. Still, my little lunch police rendezvoused during recess to confirm I had not committed fraud. They measured cheese slices, weighed bologna and counted peanuts in granola bars.

I did my best, but committed the unforgivable sin: I sent vegetables in their lunches. Not just normal celery and carrots.

Turnips. I sent sliced turnips.

Only later did I comprehend the dire consequences. One piece might trigger lifetime exile from the popular tables, where everyone ate prefabricated food and jockeyed to sit beside the third grade rock star. Turnips banished my children to tables occupied by kids whose mothers had concealed dangerous weapons, such as zucchini, in muffins.

At least they couldn’t trade away the turnips. Even kids with hummus brownies refused to touch turnips.

No matter what the planet Zoraxx mama thinks, lunch-packing instilled character into my family. Later, despite living with college roommates who subsisted on Ramen Noodles with Cheetos sauce, my kids actually bought and ate fresh vegetables.

They now pack school lunches for their offspring.

I will send them sympathy cards, too. And enclose a few turnip slices.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What school lunch item still gives you nightmares?

Things Have Changed, and I’m Glad

I finally stopped refusing senior discounts. (Who was I kidding?)

Now, I find it tempting to diss the present and reverence the “good old days.” One morning, a Grouchy Old Gal stared at me from the mirror. Did I really want her to stay?

Instead, I booted her out and listed things I like about 2021. Plus a few I do not miss from the past.

  • First, permanent press is a gift from God. My mother spent hours starching and ironing my puff-sleeved dresses, dresses I wore while emptying mud puddles. I iron now only when I can find mine. The best thing about a no-iron worldview? Though manufacturers lie that their clothes don’t require ironing, everyone pretends it’s true.
  • In this millennium, we enjoy a whole new excuse for playing hooky: the computers are down.
  • Email is cheaper, simpler and faster than snail mail. Unless the computers are down.
  • Microwaves, once a figment of sci-fi imaginations, have forever banished the sinking realization: “Ack! I forgot to defrost the meat!” Okay, so they sometimes produce meals the consistency of cement, with comparable nourishment. Still, speedy microwaves helped feed my skinny physician husband at all hours. They removed gunky warm-up pans from my kitchen’s décor. Nowadays, a microwave suits our lifestyle — that of college students without food service.
  • Few potlucks still feature 15 kinds of marshmallow-Jell-O salad.
  • I’ll take Susan Boyle’s singing, as opposed to Carol Channing’s, anytime. (See YouTube — another current convenience that can take us down Memory Lane, as well as make us glad we don’t live there anymore!)
  • Thanks to technology, we no longer miss favorite programs or movies. We need not suffer withdrawal symptoms when leaving before finding out whodunit.
  • Being a grandma is way more fun than being a mom.
  • In a related thought, little boys’ clothes today are much cuter than those in 1970. This grandma lauds that aspect of gender equality, as I have six grandsons.
  • In a somewhat related thought, I appreciate bicycle helmets. Seat belts. Even kids’ car seats that demand an engineering degree and an acrobat’s body to buckle.
  • Few people drive Pintos anymore.
  • Blow-dryers and curling irons have replaced the overnight torture of brush rollers and orange juice cans. Guys, if you don’t “get” the orange juice cans, ask your wives how they prettied up for Saturday night during the 1960s. Check online photos — if you dare.
  • Men rarely get permanents today. During the ’70s, much of the male population appeared to have been replaced by alien poodles. Wearing leisure suits. And platform shoes.
  • Cigarette commercials now feature cancer victims rather than cool cowboys. In restaurants, puffing and blowing occur only when your food’s too hot.
  • I applaud painless antiseptics that soothe cuts, as opposed to this-is-gonna-make-you-scream Mercurochrome.
  • Experts now assert that chocolate and coffee are good for us.
  • I hate to admit it, but cell phones do keep us safe on the road. Also, if not for cell phones, thousands of husbands might still be wandering Meijer’s aisles, seeking the correct brand of pickles.
  • No more waiting for photos to develop. No more paying for them, either.
  • We now realize God can say both “you” and “thee.”
  • Homemade, homegrown and handcrafted items — food, clothing, even coffins — have become special again.
  • Using an effortless stain stick beats scrubbing grass stains with an old toothbrush. Just ask my kids.
  • Finally, no one sings about yummy love in their tummies anymore.

That last extinction alone brightens the 2021 landscape.

My late father, who loved classical music, would have agreed.

Perhaps I inherited my outlook from Dad. He disliked many modern trends, but he also declared the “good old days” a myth. Dad plowed too many fields behind a mean mule to romanticize the past. Riding a John Deere mower was way better.

Recalling Jim Crow laws in the South — written and unwritten — he celebrated dining with both white and African-American friends without fear.

Occasionally, Dad allowed Grouchy Old Guy to stick around.

I sometimes hang out with Grouchy Old Gal.

But mostly, I celebrate life here and now.

And welcome all the senior discounts.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What don’t you miss from the “good old days,” and what are you thankful for now?

Neat Guys

Before our wedding, my fiancé’s dorm room didn’t accumulate typical guys’ cans-to-the-ceiling décor. He actually knew the laundry room’s location. Such details escaped me then. What woman in the movies melts into a man’s arms because he deposits his dirty socks into the hamper?

But as a newlywed, already in love with my new husband’s gorgeous blue eyes and cute grin, I found such behavior infinitely appealing. He didn’t exhibit the hamster behavior characteristic of males in my family. Unlike Dad, Hubby didn’t file papers on our car’s floor. I now could enter the bathroom without donning a hazmat suit, as I did when sharing one with three brothers.

What a neat guy.

The only difficulty? He was neater than I was.

My siblings had labeled me obsessive because I wore matching socks, I’d taken pride in my orderliness, but mine didn’t match his. We still don’t mesh. The good news: he helps with laundry and would no more leave Permapress to languish in the dryer than he would our grandkids. The bad news: he doesn’t get my closet organizational system.

You have a system?” He hugs clean shirts as if afraid he’ll never see them again.

Certainly. I organize my closet according to good memories. Sparkly holiday outfits and mother-of-the-bride dresses dominate the front so I can enjoy them.

Hubby categorizes long- and short-sleeved shirts. He keeps black socks in one drawer, brown in another. He’ll wear blue/gray ensembles one day, brown/beige the next, until the Second Coming, and maybe afterward. This, he claims, frees brain cells to focus on work, with plenty left over to ponder world peace and the next World Series champion.

When a physician on night call, Hubby’s compulsions made sense. Few people can assemble a wearable outfit in the dark. Still, no woman in labor would worry whether he was wearing black socks with brown pants.

I assumed his good habits would transfer to our son. My hopes rose when our toddler begged to empty the garbage. They faded when he dumped trash baskets into the bathtub. He now lives with a neat wife, so he’s learned to take trash outside for pickup.

I’d hoped my girls could bring fresh neatnik Y chromosomes into the family through marriage. Neither son-in-law professed to be a Mr. Clean. Years later, they haven’t changed.

But they continue to love God, their wives and children — which include my six grandsons. Are any budding neatniks? Nope. Not one insists on Thomas the Tank Engine socks in one drawer, Spiderman socks in another. Still, the male line in our family is wonderful. What neat guys!

And I live with the neatest one of all.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does your family line include neat guys?