All This and Mannequins, Too
When I got married and moved away, the first thing my parents wanted out of their house were my milk cans.
That’s right. Milk cans. You know, those tall metal canisters that would weigh about 800 pounds if ever actually filled with milk, but now are used as planters in front of antique stores? I had no recollection of ever owning milk cans, but my mother insisted they were mine and she wanted them out.
We continued this game for quite some time with differing opinions as to what exactly was mine.
“What should we do with your kitchen table?” I was asked one fall morning.
“I don’t own a kitchen table, “ I replied.
“Yes, you do. We got it for you at a yard sale when you were in college.”
Never mind that college was eons ago and I had never actually seen the table. Apparently, it was considered my property nevertheless.
The logistics of transferring these goods was complicated, as I live in Wisconsin and my parents in Connecticut. But my folks were determined I was going to reclaim what they believed was mine. Personally, I think it was just an opportunity to pawn off random unwanted items. A life-sized wooden Holstein cow, three-quarters of a bunk bed, an inflatable Big Ben, and a rotating fiber optic Christmas tree are a mere sampling of the items that eventually found their way to our house.
The boxes my parents ship are always enormous and oddly-shaped, baffling the UPS driver as to what he’s possibly hauling. We like to refer to them as “mystery boxes.” One shipment got lost for months and when we finally received it, the box had basically been destroyed and taped back together. Whoever repaired the box had obviously seen and handled the contents. Did they recognize the lime green, antler-horned tube as a didgeridoo?
For a while my mother believed my husband had a collection of frogs. He didn’t … but he does now. Every year, wooden frogs on lilypads, furry googly-eyed tadpoles and rubber amphibian hats would grace my husband’s stocking on Christmas morning. Neither of us collect anything (except oddities that get shipped to our house), so we were confused how this notion even sneaked its way into my mother’s psyche.
These choice Christmas gifts, by the way, arrived wrapped and ready to go – in July. We’d have to store them for 6 months, not an easy task with kids around.
There was a noted difference in the shipments once we had children. The mystery boxes arrived more frequently and their contents changed to more mainstream items such as clothing, toys and books. We still received the token “conversation pieces,” but now they were kid-oriented. Most of these finds came from yard sales, which made the items even more unique. We became the envy of all local pre-schoolers with a life-sized teepee and a tandem tricycle with its own hitch. For the winter months, we have a miniature Iditarod dog sled.
I should clarify that my parents usually ask first before sending out these boxes. But they don’t always listen to the answer. Once I was asked if we would like a mannequin. I politely declined, but a few weeks later a box arrived with a microscope, a toy play set of a sewer system, bookends and an arm. When I questioned my parents, my dad (who had the job of packing and shipping the mystery boxes) said, “I couldn’t find a box big enough for the mannequin, so I’m sending it out in pieces.”
And so it continued. In the next box I found a tuxedo, ice skates, a jester hat, and a leg. I didn’t know what to do with these disconnected body parts, so I finally started putting them in a box out in our now-defunct chicken coop. Every couple of months I’d add a head, a hand, or a foot to the collection.
After about two years, it seemed like the body parts stopped appearing and I figured I must have an entire mannequin. So I went out to the chicken coop and assembled the mannequin. Much to my surprise, though, there were too many parts. Somehow I had enough for one-and-a-half mannequins. How is that possible? How did this happen? My parents cannot explain it and neither can I.
Perhaps the one-and-a-half mannequins can sleep in the three-quarters of a bunk bed. They’re both still out in the chicken coop, along with everything else you can imagine.