Friday, November 23, 2007

The Crematorium

With all the cooking over the past few days I have been giving the microwave quite a workout. It is getting on in years and I think its time is coming soon to be retired. I’m going to be sort of sorry to see it go. I don’t think that you could say that I have a sentimental attachment to the thing, but how I got it does have a bit of an odd history.

It all began with my having what was perhaps the most bizarre in a long history of bizarre conversations with my mother.

I had just moved into the apartment I am now living in. I don’t think I’d been here over a month when the phone rang. It was my mother. As usual, she asked how I was and then not waiting for an answer launched into here chosen topic.

“You know your Uncle George and your Aunt Rose have never been good at planning ahead.” , she said. “Well…. Your father and I have sold them part of our burial plot. There will be plenty of room, since this cemetery will let you cram as many people as will fit, so if you are cremated then there will be plenty of room for us and all of their kids too. As long as we’re all cremated. Now your father doesn’t want to be cremated, but even so there will still be plenty of room. You were planning on being cremated weren’t you?

I allowed that cremation was what I had planned on, not adding that I didn't have the least intention of spending eternity in the same burial plot as my nearest and dearest relations.

“And we’ve already had everyone’s name put on the headstone…”

“Uh, there’s already a headstone?” I asked.

Well, we got a really good deal on it, and it was going to be cheaper if we just had everyone’s names put on it. With the birth dates, so all they have to do is fill in the rest of the information when we “go”., she said.

“You’re telling me my name is on a headstone up in Vermont?”

“Now don’t be like that. So. Do you have a microwave?”, she asked.

At this point all I could think was that my mother was going to suggest we perform home cremations in order to cut further costs.

Uh…. Nooooo? I ventured.

Well, George and Rose are paying us in installments, since they don’t have all the money to pay for their share of the plot. And George just won a microwave oven in the church raffle…. Insert long winded exposition on, why is it that other people have all the luck, my mother never wins anything, the personal shortcomings of the parish priest and several members of the congregation and why doesn’t anyone dress for church any more.

….so your Uncle George is trading us the microwave for part of the price of the plot.

At this point I was a little lost and I think I said something brilliant like, “that’s nice”.

Well…. We already have that new microwave that your father is always making popcorn in. They really are handy, you know you can cook hot dogs in them in 2 minutes….. Insert lengthy discourse on the wonders of modern appliances, how if my mother didn’t watch every forkful of food that goes into my fathers mouth that he would have killed himself with another heart attack by now, the failings of all his siblings in their eating habits and how their respective spouses were neglecting their matrimonial duties by not making everyone’s life a dietary purgatory.

…..and I don’t believe she’s letting Aldore eat SHRIMP!”

“Well, said mom, I already asked your sisters and the boys if they wanted the microwave, but they already have one, so I thought I’d call you up and see if you wanted it.”

My dear little mother, god bless her, has a way of taking the joy out of anything and this was among the least gracious offers of generosity that I have ever received, but a free microwave was free microwave so I accepted the offer.

A few days later I had my new microwave. A couple of weeks later my friend Juanita was over and I was telling her the story. When I got to the part about my mother asking me if I had a microwave in the middle of the burial plot story, Juanita just looked at me and asked, “Is she expecting you to do home cremations?” I told her that that had been my first thought. We got a good laugh out of the whole thing and Juanita dubbed the oven, "The Pelletier Family Crematorium".

As I say, after 15 years, the oven is on it’s last legs and I am going to have to think sooner rather than later about getting a new one. I do know however that I wont’ be able to get one that was part of a barter deal for a burial plot. Unless anyone out there is in need of a final resting place. I can get you a spot in exchange for a new microwave. The cremation we’ll have to negotiate on.