Friday, March 04, 2005

Drop Your Drawers

Has everyone got their protective eye gear and snake repellant? Good, because today, we’re heading into my junk drawer.

Junk drawer really understates it. I have an antique desk that has no less than three really capacious drawers in it. If I wanted to, I could rent two of the drawers out to other people and let them put their junk in there. If I lived in Manhattan, I could rent them out as studio apartments. But this is the only real estate in the house that is truly mine, and I hoard my trove of the worthless greedily.

I open the door in the desk that leads into the largest drawer, and Christmas cards that I bought on December 26th fall onto the floor, which is to be expected, as they don’t actually fit in there. However, they don’t fit anywhere else either, so there they must dwell. I comfort myself thinking, “the cards aren’t getting dented and covered in dog hair, only the box. And at least I’ll know where my half-price Christmas cards are when I need them.” The day after Thanksgiving, the boxes will go missing, not to be found anywhere. I will destroy the house attempting to find them, finally decide the dog has eaten them, scream at the dog, and buy new Christmas cards at full-price. In March, the Christmas cards will turn up in the storage space, several miles away, in a box labeled “Easter Basket Grass/Broken VCR/Breast Pump”.

Behind Land of Yule are several art and science projects that Daughter has done; or, as I like to think of them, fodder for Daughter’s future therapist. The pictures the children draw, I understand; these you put on the fridge until they get spaghetti sauce splatters and then discreetly replace them with new artwork. Three-dimensional productions, on the other hand, have the half-life of uranium. Daughter took an art class one Saturday, and came home with her very own sculpture. It was kind of The Thinker, if Rodin had worked in Styrofoam balls and poster paint. We kept it on the table for a week and then, when she was at school one day, I gave it a quiet burial in the Sea of Hefty. When she came home that afternoon, she for once put something in the trash, found her artwork, and brought it back to me, eyes ablaze.

“Mommy, you very nearly threw this out!”

We couldn’t have that, could we? She now keeps an eagle eye on me and her art. The Getty should have such security. I had to create a new policy where I keep something out for a week, and then slide it into the desk for another week or so. If she asks where it went, I can produce it triumphantly. After that, I figure it’s safe to jettison. This must happen under cover of night, however, and I’m usually asleep before I remember to empty the holding cell so this drawer currently contains:

1. A tiny faux terrarium in a baby food jar,
2. A crab made out of an egg crate,
3. A snake made out of an egg crate,
4. Gwyneth Paltrow made out of an egg crate.

Behind the Land of Arts & Sciences is a letter proclaiming I am a member of the genealogical society of a Midwestern state (I can only assume I am the youngest person in that group by at least one World War). There are also a pile of papers about my ancestors. This started off as something for the Daughter; my mother’s family has been in the United States over 200 years, and I wanted her to know about her background. However, this has devolved into a masochistic exercise for me. Did you go to your High School reunion and have someone come up who seemed to have been in every single class with you, and you had no idea who this person was? Imagine an entire family made up of these people. They had the ability to leave absolutely no impression whatsoever and did nothing of any consequence, either positive or negative (A friend has a direct ancestor who condemned Salem witches to death. How jealous am I?). My family has lived below the radar since long before there was radar. Others in my extended family have done research, as have I, and what we discovered is the one thing our family did exceedingly well: not dying before they bred.

Under the Land of the Dull are lists of books for children I have amassed. Not the books, mind you, just lists of them. Caldecott winners, best books for each decade, best books for each age, I am knee-deep in lists. But what I really need is a list of books about cats who are also Princesses who live in Fairyland and talk about eating candy for entire chapters. That’s the list in which my daughter would be interested.

Nestled below the Land of Books is a two-inch high stack of receipts. This represents every single home renovation that has been done since I moved in, no matter how picayune. I suspect that I could go through the pile and throw out the receipts for certain things like nails and sandpaper. But it would be depressing to see how much we have done and contemplate how squalid the house still is. Therefore, the papers lie quietly, unobserved and unloved, quietly becoming compost. I should probably fabricate some sort of wall covering with them.

And here, in the Land of Plumbing Estimates, is where we will take our leave. Perhaps another day, we shall strap on the miner’s hat and go into the middle drawer. If it is the right season, and we are very quiet, we might see the paper clips mating.


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