Heartbreak fridge: ‘Odd’ parting gifts
Thursday, 06 July 2017
By Lisa Smith Molinari
Special to GUIDON

The summer military moving season is upon us, which means it’s probably time to say goodbye to friends. There will be farewell fire pits, hugs and even tears.

But moving requires cleaning out the kitchen, so this otherwise sad occasion may also come with parting gifts.

Admit it, you have a bottle of mustard, a can of cooking spray or some other food item in your kitchen you did not purchase. We know you didn’t pay for that jar of Spanish olives, did you?

I’m not accusing anyone of being a thief. To the contrary, I’m merely pointing out a unique aspect of military spouse culture: It’s all about giving.

You make friends at each duty station, and even if friendships are brief, each friend bequeaths to you fond memories of afternoons chatting on the patio during deployments, or of the night you brought her wine and chocolate because she was crying over her husband’s new orders.

But her final gift to you is something that, even though it will last for many months to come, seems so thoughtless and random: that bottle of cocktail sauce that was on the door of her refrigerator.

What gives?

Receiving a bag of turkey meatballs may seem like an insult, but this simple gesture between spouses is actually quite poignant.

You certainly don’t need her half-used tub of margarine, but it’s a lasting symbol of her friendship. She gave these things to you because that’s what we do — we share travel tips and power tools, hairdressers and babysitters, laughter and tears, the challenges and rewards of military life.

Your friend didn’t mean to offend you with that jar of capers. In fact, she tried very hard to salvage the food in her kitchen by concocting strange casseroles and feeding them to her Family.

She layered them with melted cheese and cracker crumbs to disguise the can of French-style green beans, that pack of hot dogs with freezer burn, and that bag of stiffened mini-marshmallows.

But her Family, eventually got fed up with her magical mystery meals, and that’s when she thought of you.

Funnily enough, I can’t remember the countless duds and delights I gave to friends before our last 11 military moves. The stress of each move has a way of blurring those details.

Ironically, I have an uncanny memory of the many kitchen items given to me over the years.

I never did find a use for them, but I was grateful for the cocktail onions my friend, Natalie, gave me. I was touched by the frozen chicken tenders from Eileen and the maple syrup from Michelle.

Useful or not, I recognized each item given and received for what it was: A tiny memento of our friendship.

So, when you see that bottle of Catalina dressing on your refrigerator door that no one in your Family likes, don’t be annoyed.

Instead, remember that in our military community, when you give understanding, camaraderie, and support, that is exactly what you will get back.

Well, that, and a jar of horseradish.

But think of it like this: She may have given you a lousy bottle of ketchup, but the unspoken understanding and support your fellow military spouse offered when you were in need was nothing short of priceless.

(Editor’s note: Molinari writes a column covering different aspects of military life. You can find her articles at www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com.)
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 19 July 2017 )