Splenda, Sweet and Low, Equal and Sugar
Closing ThoughtsShaindle's Shpiel

Splenda, Sweet and Low, Equal and Sugar

Shaindle shares some of the lessons she has found while learning to love the hoarders in her life.

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Shaindle Schmuckler
Shaindle Schmuckler

Many years ago, I used to collect owls. Even today, I could not say why. I don’t even like owls. What I can tell you is, one sunny day in Tampa, Fla., where we lived for 10-plus years, I abruptly made a formal and very loud announcement: No more owls. For G-d’s sake, I was receiving owls upon owls for every occasion. I am not exaggerating.

Here are a few examples: birthday; Chanukah; invited to Shaindle and Gene’s home…she has an owl collection, easy gift, bring another owl to add to her vast collection. It got to the point where I seriously considered a primal scream. I always was a polite receiver of these farkakteh (miserable) owls; however, I could feel the scream building.

I am not a hoarder, or, generally speaking, not a collector. Truth be told, I am only interested in collecting and distributing hugs. Hokey? I don’t think so. I am your basic “get rid of stuff” type of person. I can only tolerate so much stuff. I am an organizer. Not an obsessive-compulsive organizer, just a plain ol’ organizer. When I hit my limit, it’s off to the dumpster or Goodwill I go.

I have, however, been blessed with knowing a few hoarders in my lifetime. My husband for one. It took a great deal of inner strength on my part to keep his collections, from stamps, trucks, cameras, photography equipment, and books to name a few, all under control.

Let’s talk a little about the other wonderful hoarders I have known and loved. Let us all send smiles to, not surprisingly, Gene’s mom, his sister, two of my aunts and all those dear people who practiced the “fa’later bags” theory.

Given there are different strokes for different folks, I will now attempt to list some of the hoarder specials, and where they can be found: ketchup packets; the not so popular mustard packets; and the very popular mayonnaise packets; strawberry jelly packets; and the not quite as popular grape jelly packets; and the very sought after pink Sweet’n Low packets; the sky-blue Equal packets; the lovely yellow Splenda packets; and let us not forget the white true sugar packets. These sought-after packets can be found in virtually any and all restaurants. Napkins, as well as salt and pepper dispensers, are some hoarder’s favorites. I would be remiss in not mentioning newspapers (ancient, old, and new) and brown paper bags of all sizes and shapes.

I must make mention of kitchen towels, sheets, pillowcases, and bath towels. Some of these towels were worn to the point of being paper thin, and older than time itself. Obviously, the towels were hoarding many fond memories.

Should you be seated at a restaurant without these items of interest on your table, don’t yell at your waitstaff. You may be the lucky patron seated directly after one of these patrons with a hoarder personality who has left the building with his/her haul.

Fa’later bags: I do believe this term was conceived by the New Americans vacationing in the Catskill summer resorts. These bags, or pocketbooks, were carefully and not so surreptitiously filled with leftovers and as many rolls as both right and left hands could gather. Later, when hunger would strike, or there was just a need for something to fill their tummies, they could create for themselves a late afternoon snack or warm rolls for their morning snack before breakfast, which they enjoyed in their bungalows or hotel rooms.

Some background as to how I obtained this firsthand experience of the fa’later bags. Gene, that would be my hubby, and I worked in the same children’s summer camp. It was an expansive property in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., up in the New York mountains. The camp included a large facility, including bungalows and a hotel for adults and their families, many of whom vacationed at the camp for portions of the summer.

Camp Kinder Ring was also a very popular resort for many working-class families who planned a long vacation for Labor Day weekend. After the children’s summer camp experience ended, and the buses carried the campers and staff back to the reality of school and their parents’ rules, and camp was closed for the winter, Gene and I worked as waitstaff for these Labor Day vacationers. This is where we expanded our vocabulary to include words like “fa’later bags,” and where I developed a new respect for: “Girlie, the soup is cold and too salty; go fix it,” and for waitstaff in general.

You must be wondering how and when did I unearth the reality that we had so many hoarders in our families. Well, to begin with, I had a front row seat to my husband’s mishigas. I am, fortunately, the polar opposite of my handsome, funny, athletic, smart-as-a-whip husband, and so I was able to keep our lives in check. I unearthed my beloved aunt’s and mothers-in-law’s obsessions after their deaths, when I was part of the teams who were tasked with gathering and sorting what stays and what goes.

And there you have it!

read more: