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The wisdom of the old toaster oven

By Janice Lindsay

My husband and I arrived at our new house, in a new town, on a wintry night, just after a blizzard and before a raging rainstorm – not an auspicious welcome to our new life.

We slept that first night on air mattresses, as our furniture wouldn’t be delivered until the next morning. We wanted to be there when the movers arrived, so we didn’t dare to leave to look for a breakfast place. We had left room in our packed car for breakfast essentials: instant coffee, a pot to boil water, bread, peanut butter, and our old toaster oven.

I placed the toaster oven on the bare kitchen counter before we went to bed.

In the morning, I awoke in this strange house, disoriented, in a new world that seemed foreign, cold, and a little lonely.

But there, on the counter of the otherwise empty kitchen, sat our familiar, friendly, faithful, white toaster oven. It said, “This is your home, all is well.”

Everybody has to start somewhere to get used to a new venture. A familiar object helps to keep you anchored as you explore your new surroundings, whether you’re in a new home, a new job, even on a vacation.

On a new job, you might try to find a place for a photo of your grandchildren. Some people travel with their own pillow. A college student might pack along a much-loved teddy bear. I started our new home with the toaster oven.

We spent a few days unpacking and making big decisions (where to put the bookcase in relation to the couch) before we ventured much beyond our own unfamiliar walls. In spite of the toaster oven, I felt a bit like a visitor, as if we were on vacation and would soon go home. This feeling began to dissipate gradually, once I stopped driving past our driveway because I couldn’t remember precisely where it was.

When you’re in new surroundings, every simple effort requires thought. Old habits do not help. You’re going to the store for milk. But wait. Where’s the store?

You engage in constant comparison. You don’t notice what’s the same, only what’s different. So if you move now into Central Massachusetts from another northern climate, you hardly notice the chill or the trees yet to have leaves. But if you’re from the Deep South, you notice.

Maybe in your new place, people talk funny. Maybe they refer to the highway as “495” not “the 495.” They say Wooster, not Wor-ches-ter. They drive cahs.

Who’s the plumber? The electrician? Where’s the best place to order pizza? Where’s the post office? What newspaper do people read? What cell phone plan do they use? How do I get cable? How do I find a doctor? How do I make new friends?

You’re starting over. This can be scary, confusing, and maddening.

It can also be exciting. And it’s probably good for us. A new venture heightens our awareness. We see the world with new eyes. We test our adaptability. We challenge our old assumptions. We learn new ways to do things.

But soon enough, new practices become old habits and, if we’re not careful, a ho-humness can settle into our lives once again, until the next newness arrives.

Not long after our move – maybe around the time I was learning not to drive past the driveway — our old toaster oven died. This forced me to find and explore the local stores as I searched for a new one. What a wise old toaster oven.

Contact jlindsay@tidewater.net

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