The Anthropology and Archaeology of a New Year

As our train whizzes into Boston this dark and rainy morning, I’d like to report on the first trip of the new year the local grocery. Happily, the normal pre-Pats game crush wasn’t there; probably many had stocked up the day previous. This grocery plays a fairly central part of our life: not only do I seem to be in there every other day, but I wrote a column about it in each issue of my now very infrequent family newsletter. Designed for children away at college back in the day, the “News from the Bucket” updates were very popular.

On this inaugural trip of 2017, a large carton of Oxy-Clean laundry detergent lodged itself in the exit doorway. Noticed by one of the cart wranglers, he asked a couple of people exiting whether it was theirs. Alas, no. He strayed a way into the parking lot and also found no claimants, but as I scanned for my car, I headed over to a likely suspect. Sure enough, this shopper had dropped her soap and, with a “Hail” to the wrangler still stalking other cars, I managed a match the soap to a grateful shopper.

I then headed to my car, unloaded, and seeming out of nowhere, a shopper appeared who kindly offered to take my cart back to the ranch. “Thank you, “I called, “It’s all in the community.”

On archaeology: Yesterday was the day for mopping the bedroom floor. In the process, I found myself staring into the gunk lodged in the crevice between two very old floorboards. As I pried out a dime, a bobby pin emerged. With that pin I retrieved 22 cents; 2 paper clips; 1 stick-on diamond earring; 2 short pencils and 5 lego parts. Just as I was thinking that with another instrument I could find more, I unearthed a half-rusted quilting needle. Now with two implements I continued this surgery. More legos, but perhaps some of more significance: a lego visor, a golf pin flag (no 72), a horn, and a car flame. I also found 3 small washers and a tiny, tiny Tricolor: surely a flag from a Madeleine sticker set from years and years ago. And the best find? A teeny tiny blaster, no doubt owned by Han Solo, probably missing from truly a galaxy far, far away.

At one point I wonder if I should leave all this material in situ: after all, these planks swell or shrink depending on the season. What if this material were holding parts of this old house together?

I decided to abandon the quest, vacuum the remains, and leave the full length pencil in place. It’s a new year, there will, hopefully, be another day. I also wanted to file away the note found tucked behind some of the many notebooks that need shredding. It read, “Take out nutty dog.. van at MBTA lot.  I trying to make the 10:05.” No time for even complete sentences that day, but on this day, finding such abundant evidence of people and the stuff of their lives, I am refreshed in gratitude for all of it, and I wish each of us a peaceful, life-full, new year.



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