use it all up

She lives in a house that's neat as a pin.

Well. That's not true.

She lives in a house that's just messy enough and sometimes too messy and sometimes too neat and the only people who know this one thing she knows about herself are the people who live right there with her.

Lean in close, and she'll tell you about it just this once just for today.

She is still a hoarder.

Hoarder is an ugly word and it feels mean, now doesn't it?

But she licks her lips and her eyes open wide and when the smile she can't suppress slides up to give her away, she says

It's just that I don't like to finish things, see.

I     well     I     uh     I've got

one perfect chocolate still in the box from Christmas

six sips of fancy juice in the glass jar in the fridge

four feet of expensive ribbon on eight different spools from seven jobs ago

87 squares of pristine origami paper left over from a performance 10 years past

the tiniest bit of Cardinal gin way down at the bottom of the bottle.

All of that is a quirk a funny thing certainly not a big enough deal to be called a secret for god's sake I mean there are so many worse things than this and it's not like it's a problem.

Until the day her daughter discovers those 87 squares of pristine origami paper and falls in love with their perfect right angles and their saturated colors and their lovely little size.

And the woman feels the pinch in her gut and catches herself almost say


Let's put these away I've had them too long and we don't want to use them up after all these are too special these are too perfect these are too unused for you to use

Instead of what she almost says

She says instead

Of course

to her paper-cutting daughter and then for weeks they sit at the kitchen table alone or with friends and once with the daddy and they cut the bejeezus out of that paper to make piles of scraps and brightly colored snowflakes look at this look look what I made oooh I love yours mama teach me how to do that! until finally they cut up the very last one it's all done and there are no more and her daughter isn't sad isn't upset isn't feeling lack no her daughter is excited and she says

That was really fun, Mama. What do you think we'll do tomorrow that's fun?

The very same night, after her daughter is tucked into bed, the woman

opens the front door and pours out her best saved-up stories her best secret worries those invitations and appreciations and the plans the plans the plans oh! and six or seven big beautiful ideas she's been holding onto all those bits she's been holding back for just the right time and they all splash around and do a lovely job of making the porch steps glitter.

She eats the last candy

ties all the ribbons up like streamers

pours the last of the gin into a glass with the last of the juice.

She sips

and smiles into the space she's just made

for whatever good thing is yet to come.