Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Wonders of the Junk Drawer

There is one essential in every house, and the necessity of it can be clearly shown by the fact that every house has one. You are probably thinking "bathroom" but as important as that room is, it has limitations. The one space in a house that has no limitations and nearly no rules and yet is absolutely essential is the junk drawer.

"Junk drawer" is actually a misnomer, for anyone who keeps one knows that every item in that drawer is necessary for something or, at least, it will be someday.

The junk drawer is the repository for all things that don't have an immediate use but are bound to come in handy one day and you'll be very sorry if you throw it away now and want it later. These are items that don't have a set place that they belong. They would be clutter anywhere else, but here, in the junk drawer, they are treasures waiting to be discovered and dug up when the need for them arises.

I went looking through my junk drawer the other day, thinking that I should clean it out and how much more efficiently I could use that storage space. I was sure there were things that could be tossed out, after all, things seem to just get tossed in.

To my surprise, absolutely everything in that drawer is absolutely necessary - or will be one day.

For instance, there are two decorative candles whose decorations don't really fit with any known decor - but what happens if the lights go out one dark night in the middle of the winter? They will come in pretty handy then. If I throw them out, I will sit in the dark, cursing my decision. And we all know it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

There is also a half of a taper candle. Obviously this broken candle can't be placed in the decorative sconce, but I may need it to light the other candles so as not to waste precious matches. Remind me to put some matches in the junk drawer.

There are several wall plates for switches and electrical outlets. None of these match any room's colors, and none of them match each other. But you never know, I could paint and find one of these is the perfect match. In any case, they are perfectly good and too expensive to throw away. They must be expensive, they are in such awful taste.

The assorted eraserless pencils and nearly-dry pens could very well be my only source for a writing instrument when an unexpected package arrives or I have to quickly sign The Boy's homework so he can run off to school.

There's a doorknob. It seems to have all the working parts. I don't have any knobless doors at the moment. Still, you can see how foolish it would be to throw out a doorknob.

There's a flashlight with no batteries. Obviously, the next time we trip a circuit breaker and need a flashlight to go down to the cellar, this flashlight will remind us that we need to buy batteries.

There are lots of dead AA batteries in here. These are the most popular size, running everything from clocks to TV remotes and video game controllers. They end up in this drawer because although they seem to be out of juice, they still look too shiny and new to throw away. Plus, as everyone knows, these batteries are "resting". It's a scientific fact that a well-rested battery often will gather the strength to power that remote control just long enough to change the channel without having to get up and actually touch any of the buttons on the television.

There's a pamphlet that warns us not to stand on the open door of the oven to avoid tipping accidents. I have never seen anyone attempt to stand on the open door of an oven, but it's a good reminder and something to file away in my "worst case scenario" collection of possible disasters.

There are various bags of hardware and screws left over from things like blinds and curtain rods. It's very thoughtful of the manufacturers to include these extra supplies, even though they must know that people will install these items using the fewest screws necessary due to impatience and the discomfort of standing on a chair trying to install a screw far over their heads while swearing. I think they know we will drop approximately 50% of the screws before we have a good, solid two or three in place. If you find and retrieve the ones that fell, you can put them in the junk drawer.

There are the registration cards for appliances like the coffee maker and the toaster. These cards activate warrantees that we will never use since the cost of a new toaster is much less than the cost to ship the broken one back to the manufacturer. Still, too important to throw away - just in case.

There are other, equally important items that are too numerous to catalogue. And that's just the kitchen junk drawer. Oh yeah, I have a few of these throughout the house. If one is a good thing...

Junk drawers go with you when you move. After all your other belongings are carefully packed away, the junk drawer will be emptied into a box at the last minute. But they are rarely unpacked at the new location. For by the time you've moved in and set up housekeeping, your new junk drawer is probably already full.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Language - Beyond Communication

Language was more than a means of communicating in my family. It was used to be unique, mysterious, superior, eccentric and sometimes as a weapon. Words were selected for impact, sound and occasionally meaning got lost somewhere along the way.

I have a sister who uses words for their sounds. That is, she chooses a word that she imagines to be the most shocking or the funniest or the most outrageous. The true meaning of the word is of only secondary importance if it is even considered at all. So a plush rug with an attractive design might be redundant, even if it isn't. There's no use in telling her what redundant actually means. She has decided that it's perfect to describe the rug. Ah well, we know what she means... I think.

My mother would actually change the sounds of words. She would purposely search to find a way to pronounce a standard word in a new way. She also used some very large words when she talked to very small children. I know people who would object to that, believing the children would not understand. Having experienced it, I realize that children can learn large words as easily as small ones, and even children are more impressed by being called dilatory than they are in being told they are being slow or causing their mother a delay. It sounds so much worse yet somehow, so much more powerful and important. I was dilatory a lot.

My brother learned to use language as a weapon. There were few who could verbally spar with him and survive. Soon, the only aim in conversation was to avoid being the target of his barbed wit.

Everyone's first experience of language is utilitarian. We learn to express our needs and the names of those who supply them. Therefore, there is a time in life where saying "mama" "dada" and "baba" is perfectly sufficient. It's what we learn next that makes the difference and makes life interesting. If we are not dilatory or redundant, language can make life a lot more fun.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Remembrance

Today is my mother's birthday. She's been gone for 5 and a half years. In some ways that seems incredible. In some ways the time and distance is the only reason I can even speak about the loss of a woman who was such a powerful influence in my life. I wish I could ask her all the things I didn't think I needed to know then, but do now. Cherish people while you have them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

When Good Hobbies Turn Bad

There was a time when I was the queen of hobbies. I must have taken up dozens of hobbies which having experimented with, I quickly put back down. I suppose I had a need to feel accomplished, and goodness knows I reveled more in the accomplished tasks than in the actual practice of whatever hobby I had chosen to pursue.

I learned to knit from instructions in the Book of Knowledge, a vast encyclopedia of facts, geography, fairy tales and lessons in everyday life that was my constant reference when I was young. But knitting was tedious work, I soon found, and having begun with the intentions of knitting fabulous sweaters, I ended up making several pairs of mittens and one or two hats once I had discovered the joy of circular knitting needles.

I am afraid the same held true for crochet. Plans for large, warm afghans to cuddle up in on chilly winter nights ended up being pillows or afghans done in a large, open woven design that did little to keep in warmth but reduced the time it took to finish a project to a couple of days at most. I found crochet to be even more tension-causing than knitting and I am still not sure if several loose fillings were a result of the teeth-grinding that usually accompanied each row of crochet.

I turned to the arts, with an eye to "learning" to draw and paint. Much work went into learning how to produce a few things - a square-rigged ship, an apple blossom - despite my frustrating lack of ability to realistically render three-dimensional objects into two dimensions. I have two or three pieces of artwork that were produced during this period. They are sufficiently well done to elicit the approval of friends who can't draw at all but I would never show them to anyone who actually possesses any artistic talent.

It may be that writing is simply another one of these hobbies, except that I never studied writing, never planned any writing, don't bother working hard enough at it to cause my teeth to shatter and can't say if I ever produced anything worth the reading. I think of all my hobbies, it may be the one I do just because I like to do it. Perhaps that's more important than whether or not I do it very well.