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When we celebrate a holiday or birthday with my parents, there’s a 50-50 chance we’ll be digging through garbage later.

I don’t know what it is about our little clan that causes us to throw away small gifts, gift cards, credit cards, jewelry — you name it.

It has happened more than once that after the copious number of Christmas presents has been opened and we have bagged several sacks of garbage, somebody says: “I can’t find my gift card,” or “I’ve lost my new earrings.”

Somebody dons the rubber gloves and carries the garbage outside to crouch and pick through it like a scavenger. It’s usually already been combined with the remnants of the gluttony we have shared earlier. That’s fun.

We go through coffee grounds, egg shells, food scrapped from plates and, if we’re really lucky, a diaper.

I remember doing this at Mom and Dad’s old house one year after Christmas, looking for jewelry my mom thought she lost.

Last weekend, we celebrated an early birthday for my daughter-in-law, whose birthday is this Wednesday, and my older son, whose birthday is Nov. 1.

My mother gave my husband, David, and me her credit card to go get barbecue for lunch.

At some point after we got home, David gave Mom her credit card, and later, my dad said, “Here’s Mom’s credit card” and put it with her iPhone. The credit card disappeared. The Styrofoam and plastic containers that held baked beans, barbecue, sauce, coleslaw and potato salad were crammed into the garbage and taken outside.

Then Mom said, “I never saw it (her credit card).” We looked all over the kitchen, on the kitchen table and the floor.

We all knew what was coming next. Even though my dad said, “I don’t think you’re gonna find it in the garbage,” I donned the purple rubber gloves from under the sink, and David and I went outside.

We spread a large piece of paper from birthday-present packaging and started sorting. I don’t like coleslaw in the fanciest dish in the world, so coleslaw leaked out on paper plates and running on top of discarded birthday cake made me nauseous. We combed through all that stuff.

We didn’t find her credit card.

This garbage-digging habit seems to follow us. When my 2-year-old granddaughter, Kennedy, turned 1, we realized that a birthday card with $20 in it from her great-grandfather’s girlfriend was missing. The woman works hard for her money, and that was unacceptable.

My mother suggested we go behind the house that belongs to the hospital where we’d had the party and look in the garbage. Luckily, it didn’t include the medical-waste trash. It wasn’t too far into the wrapping paper and petit fours that we found the card and the $20.

My mother didn’t want to call and cancel her credit card, so I dumped out my purse; she dumped out hers. We weren’t going to give up, but neither of us found the card.

Then Mom went to the dining-room table, where my son was moving one of his hunting-related presents, goose wind socks, and when he picked them up, my mother gasped. My son jumped and dropped the geese, afraid she’d seen something alive.

It turned out she had walked over to the table earlier with her phone and credit card and left the credit card, which was under the geese.

I know this: For Christmas, everyone is getting a set of personalized rubber gloves for the big dig after the celebration.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-5671 or


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