Everyone has one—that space, usually a drawer, where you toss all those stray keys, extra screws, odd-shaped pieces of metal or plastic that you know belong to something, small tools, tape measures, tubes of glue, a couple of buttons, a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, Cracker Jack prizes, and various other homeless items. That’s why it’s called a junk drawer.
Once in a while what you are searching for is right on top, but most of the time it is way in the back, on the bottom. Sometimes it’s wedged tightly into the seam.
Every five or ten years you dump everything out and throw away the partial tube of dried-out glue, the warranty card for an appliance that died three years ago, and maybe even the rusty screws and nails. In an extreme fit of neatness you may even put in dividers and sort everything. It will stay sorted until the next time the drawer is opened.
Then one day you’ll find a screw lying on the floor and tuck it neatly into the front corner of the drawer. When your husband decides to replace it, he will go through the contents like a side-delivery rake, looking for that screw. Failing to find it, he will decide it isn’t really that important, and go do something else.
The junk drawer in my cupboard isn’t much of a problem, but I also have one in my head. It contains a lot more junk than the other and is just as poorly organized. Old songs, poems, names, bits of movies, memories, both good and bad, and odd phrases that make no sense now that I’ve forgotten the context.
Like the drawer, sometimes what I want to find is right there on top, but usually I have to rummage through childhood memories of playing in the pasture trees, picnicking in trees alongside a gravel road, being driven cross-country to school in snow so deep the team didn’t trot, but lunged. Or memorized poems and song lyrics—maybe Beautiful Ohio, that we used to sing on the way to town—country and western favorites, popular or classical music. They persist in covering the information I am searching for.
Unlike that drawer, I can’t just dump everything out and discard those useless bits of knowledge: how to find grease zirks, or harness and hitch a team. I hope to never again have to clean and cut up a chicken, but the memory is there. Starter buttons on cars and seams on nylons are long gone and not missed. Nor forgotten.
Last night just as I was drifting off to sleep I had a wonderful idea for a painting I was beginning. This morning I can’t find it. I suspect it’s hiding under the words to Annie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.
I can’t remember not loving to read. It’s a harmless addiction unless the house is on fire or someone is bleeding.
I did finally gather the courage to take a correspondence course in writing through a state college, and I even submitted a few stories – an action about as comfortable as parading down Main Street in the nude.
My first publication – a humorous story about remodeling our old farmhouse – was in Woman’s World in the July, 1972 issue. Later I wrote mostly rural humor; think Erma Bombeck on a tractor. I have been published in The Fence Post, a farm and ranch magazine based in Colorado, Grit, Capper’s, Farm Journal, North Dakota REC Magazine, North Dakota Horizons, Good Old Days, and in two anthologies, Why Farm Wives Age Fast, and Leaning Into the Wind.
You might also like –
Kristen Lamb’s blog – Writing and the junk drawer of life
Apartment Therapy – Organizing the junk drawer