Expiration Dates

We are in Los Angeles this week due to my daughters overlapping Spring Breaks. My oldest daughter is coming to LA to spend a few days here as well, but she couldn’t get the weekend off work, so she will only be here for mid-week. It’s kind of like a family vacation, except that everyone is here for different legs of the trip due to conflicting work schedules and school schedules. Illustrative of that, my youngest daughter and my husband left this morning to go skiing for a few days. My oldest daughter arrives this evening, and my middle daughter leaves tonight on the red-eye to go back to school. Yes, I will be making three trips to the airport to accommodate all the different itineraries. It’s kind of comical… except that traffic in LA is no laughing matter.

Meanwhile, it has been nine months since I have been to LA. I think this is the longest time I have ever been away from my hometown. While I have lived in Hawaii for over 10 years, I have always come back to LA every six to twelve weeks. Between work and family, there was always a reason to be going back and forth. This has changed since my dad passed away last year, my middle daughter left LA to to go to college on the east coast, and I am no longer tied to any one studio or network. If it weren’t for my husband and daughter wanting to come to the mainland for skiing, I might have been away for even longer. 

Due to all the business travel, we kept an apartment in LA for the last eight years. It has been a great luxury to only have to pack a briefcase rather than a suitcase when you travel as often as we did. Particularly for those of us (me) who hate to pack. I keep all of my winter clothes, business clothes, and black tie attire in Los Angeles. A vestige of my former life. The bathroom is stocked with necessary cosmetics and toiletries. The kitchen is stocked with non-perishable foods.

But upon our arrival the other day, while trying to make a late night snack for the family, I noticed that some of the kitchen staples had expired. We had a cabinet full of dry goods that I thought would last for a long time. But as I started to turn the packages over to check the expiration dates, I noticed that a lot of stuff expired last year. Some things expired two years ago. Some three. Wait? What? How is that possible? How is it that so much time has passed, that canned soups expired? Ramen. Pasta. A freezer full of Trader Joe's stuff. Holy cow. So much for non-perishables.

I ended up going through the refrigerator and threw out a whole shelf of condiments. Who knew that ketchup, mustard, salad dressing all goes bad… even in the refrigerator? Then I decided to tackle the freezer. Bye bye Trader Joe's Tikka Masala, Grilled Cauliflower bites, Ice Cream, and a frozen pizza. Thankfully, I couldn’t find the expiration date on the Trader Joe's frozen chocolate lava cakes. Those would have been a travesty to throw out. 

Our flight had landed at 10:30pm, so it was after midnight when I went on this cleansing purge of “past the shelf life” goods in my apartment. After doing the dry goods cabinet, the refrigerator, and the freezer, I was now ready to tackle the bathroom products. Can you say Jet Lag with a splash of OCD? 

In the bathroom, I discovered bags of old makeup, and some promotional cosmetics leftover from some goody bags from the Golden Globes which were at least five years old. I think the rule of thumb is that used cosmetics should be discarded after one year? Oops. I found half-used bottles of hair conditioner that smelled funny and had changed color. Probably not a good sign. I even found a bottle of rubbing alcohol that allegedly expired last year, but it had never been opened. Sorry, that just doesn’t make sense. I had to draw the line somewhere. The sealed bottle of rubbing alcohol and the frozen chocolate lava cakes STAY!

But this purge of old frozen food, expired canned food, and ancient partially-used cosmetics made me feel like I was cleaning out my grandmother’s house after she passed away. Except that this wasn’t my grandmother’s house. It’s mine. And it’s not like I have lived in this house for 50 years and have never done a good cleanse. This is a relatively new modern apartment. So how did time pass so quickly that I was throwing out things that expired three years ago or even longer? I don’t know, but suddenly these expiration dates felt like a bizarre metaphor for life. 

Time marching on is not a new revelation. I get it. But when you are young, time just moves slower. Hours can feel like days. Days can feel like weeks. Weeks can seem like months. Months can seem like years. But, when you turn 50, everything starts to go in the opposite direction. Years fly by like months. Months feel like weeks. Weeks feel like days, etc.

My middle daughter is graduating college this year. While I am acutely aware of this fact, it wasn’t until my sister called us the other day and asked her, “Are you a senior?” When she replied, “Yes, I am graduating in six weeks.” I suddenly had a lump in my throat and my eyes starting watering. How has my little snuggle bug of a baby, who wore exclusively Disney princess clothing for the first three years of her life, and hummed when she ate her canned pears and peaches, suddenly become an (almost) college graduate? I started to panic about this strange time warp. My youngest daughter is still in high school, but if high school is anything like college, I only have three more years (aka minutes) with her at home before she is thousands of miles away too. 

So what is it about these expiration dates that has suddenly caused a mild existential crisis. How did expired frozen waffles and sunscreen suddenly make me so aware that time is no longer just “marching?” 

Is time now flying? No, time has officially moved into warp speed.

If you don’t believe me… just check your medicine cabinet.