“Do you have the crockpot full of meatballs?” my mother asked me after I got out of my car. We’d just driven two vehicles to my uncle’s house for a holiday gathering. However, all the food was in my mother’s car, not mine.
“Uh, no,” I told her after a short pause. I couldn’t believe my mother was asking me this question. My mother, who compulsively checked the stove before leaving the house. My mother, who carefully staged all the food on the dining room table the night before departure so she wouldn’t forget anything. My mother, who made me top off my car’s coolant in the dark and cold on Christmas Eve so she wouldn’t worry about my car overheating on the drive down. How could my mother ever possibly misplace a crockpot full of meatballs?
“I carried them out and put them on the sidewalk by your trunk,” Sister-in-law chimed in. Two seconds later we all simultaneously made the same realization: We had left a crockpot full of meatballs on the sidewalk in front of my mother’s apartment.
“Do you think they’ll still be there when we get back?” I asked Brother and Sister-in-law on the drive back home four hours later. Sister-in-law was confidant that yes, the crockpot of meatballs would still be there, because neighbors wouldn’t steal other neighbors’ meatballs. She said that if she saw a crockpot full of meatballs on the sidewalk of her neighborhood, she would assume someone had left them there and would be back for them eventually.
I was uncertain whether the crockpot or the meatballs would still be there. I had seen many dog walkers in my mother’s apartment complex and was concerned that some of the mutts may have smelled the meatballs and knocked the glass lid off the slow cooker to have a holiday snack. I also knew that whenever someone left a couch or dresser and bookshelf near the dumpster in my own apartment complex, it was quickly scavenged by someone else. The crockpot was at least 30 years old, and definitely looked like something someone might throw away. We hadn’t left it by the dumpster though, which meant context was going in its favor.
Brother sided with Sister-in-Law, claiming that an empty crockpot might be scavenged quickly, but the presence of meatballs inside the crockpot would lead any snatch-and-grabbers to conclude that this crockpot had not been discarded on purpose.
As we turned the corner onto my mother’s street, there was great anticipation. Would the meatballs still be there? Would the crockpot?
Yes! The crockpot and the meatballs were both still there, just as we’d left them, four and a half hours later. The meatballs were still fairly warm too, even though they’d spent hours in the cold. We quickly recovered our crockpot and meatballs and returned them to the safety of my mother’s apartment. Later that night as we laughed about the situation, we also wondered if somewhere in the apartment complex a family was having a similar discussion about the mysterious crockpot full of meatballs they’d seen on the sidewalk and how it had disappeared just as mysteriously as it had appeared.