by Patricia Cates
What makes rummaging through drawers tough? I'll tell you. It's the memories found therein.
Bittersweet they are.
This past week I was sort of compelled (forced) to rummage through my home's kitchen junk drawers. Normally I can find misplaced items here. When that didn't do the trick, I continued to dig through every dresser in the house. I overturned every stray corner and pile possible, down to my cookbook shelf. I emptied out every pretty little storage box and basket. Twice!
You see...I desperately needed to find a thin soft-backed book that my grandmother had put together back in 1979. It holds all of the family pictures, critical dates and personal stories of my father's family history. I refer to it often. My 15 year old daughter is doing a large project to earn her medallion and it's vital she have this resource.
I soon became frustrated with myself as I have never let this book leave the house. I was also irritated at how disorganized I've apparently become. I was angry at the thought that someone might have cleaned up and put the book somewhere without my knowledge. Although that would be a rarity. Mostly I was (am) freaked out that it has gotten lost in a pile of paper somewhere and been recycled!!!
Our "office" is my library, but it also serves as a homework area. We have a long solid surface countertop laid over the top of four miniature filing cabinets. That means three workstations and plenty of computer space. Over the years the space hasn't been used much; as kids like to do homework in the kitchen, living room, family room, or in their own room, and PC's are somewhat obsolete. So the office has really just become an extra room in the basement that no one goes in, or so I thought.
When I decided to search the office for the book, I opened some of those filing cabinet drawers and I became even more annoyed. Household members had obviously been storing (shoving) all sorts of things in there for years. There were random bags of old crayons and coloring books mixed with scrapbooking paper, glue, tools, folders and receipts. I found lost eyeglasses and keys and hundreds of pictures my 21 year old daughter had taken in junior high. In the bottom of one drawer a portion of my pristinely kept Ensigns were laid bent into a shoebox too small to hold them, along with my best (lost) travel magazines. I also found a whole cabinet my husband took over when he moved in. It was riddled with unopened mail, stuff his kids made for him in grade school, and tidbits from his former life, which I totally respect. Sadly the cupboard above holds the photos and albums of my family members long passed away, as well as my former marriage. The kids can have some of them when they are older. I don't dare open one now. Knowing what's inside the pages bring about emotions I cannot face while trying to clean. Totally counterproductive.
There were too many things found in these drawers to mention here. But I will say that I fully understand why I have been avoiding them. I am reminded of my children not being little anymore. Reminded of wonderful family vacations and a failed marriage. Reminded my wonderful husband was once married to his high school sweetheart. Reminded that my kids are messy and that I hate paperwork. Maybe subconsciously I wanted to hold on to more than coloring books. I have a tough time facing the past without falling apart and I know that. Thinking of it all makes me want to cry in utter defeat, not only for the mess at hand, but for the lost hope and the former me. The former me was ultra organized and totally unbeatable. I miss her.
So this precious book may be lost for now, but it will resurface. In the mean time I am cleaning it all out. Once I got going it wasn't so bad. We (me and the former me) are about half way through now. I recycled about 15 pounds of paper from my husbands desk. His was easy. It was all unemotional business stuff he was holding onto for taxes, prior to 2008, and held no connection for me. He is grateful I did that for him, as it needed to be done. I also very neatly put his mementos safely away in a box, as I know it would be equally upsetting for him to be reminded of how sweet his ex was before she upped and left. They were really cute in high school. I cry for him too.
I have chosen to let my kids decide what to do with the coloring books. Some of them hold their best work inside the pages. The Barbie Princess one especially. I can't let it go. Hopefully they can catch a glimpse of their own sort of nostalgia and learn about families and pitching in along the way.