Posted by: ktzefr | January 12, 2018

Around the World in a Junk Drawer


I went upstairs to get a notepad, planning to come right back to the kitchen to make a grocery list.  I stayed two hours.

The desk drawer is shallow.  The notepads were stacked to the side.  Most of them are freebies that I regularly get in the mail.  I had absolutely no reason to rummage through the other stuff, but then…

I got distracted by a recipe for bread pudding.  It was handwritten on a sheet of note paper from the Hotel La Condesa in Costa Rica where I’d stayed almost eighteen years ago.  Well, that needed to be in the kitchen with the cookbooks.

There were other blank notepads from hotels in Mexico, the Caribbean, Ecuador — places I’ve loved, souvenirs that I’ve kept for years and can’t imagine using to write grocery lists.  I put them back.  

I found a blue envelope with our name and address written in very large, fancy script.  It was empty.  There was no return address.  The post office stamp was faded.  Who?  Where?  Why?  When?  I have no idea.

In this small, shallow drawer I discovered stuff that made me laugh, cry, and/or shake my head.  Ordinary stuff — mystery keys (one set was in a small plastic bag with a note that said “blue suitcase key”; that suitcase was tossed years ago), a tiny stuffed bulldog keychain with the price tag still attached (?), three old cell phones, a bluetooth rarely used, a portable phone charger never used.  

Postcards.  Stacked neatly in the back of the drawer.  We had sent them home years ago when internet didn’t exist and international phone calls were too expensive.  Nowadays it’s difficult to find picture postcards anywhere.  We sent them to my parents and inlaws and they kept them.  Eventually, the cards came full circle back to us.  



From Pisa I’d written about the expressways in Italy, Rome to Rapallo, how the roads leapt from one mountain to the next, over bridges and through tunnels.  I’d been appalled by the price of cigarettes (75 cents; I didn’t even smoke) and Coke at 35 cents for a bottle that was half the size of our Coke at home and “they don’t even give you ice.”   

In Copenhagen we’d eaten roast duck with cherries.  The air off the North Sea was chilly in August.  A picture of the snow-capped Matterhorn from Switzerland; the Eiffel Tower in Paris; a card from Holland with tulips and windmills and girls in wooden clogs.

On a card from the Vatican I wrote about the amazing ice cream and pastries I’d eaten and stated that all of the floors in our hotel were marble.  “It’s cheaper than wood here,” I wrote.  I have no idea if that was true or not.

I described the “zillions of skyscrapers” in Munich in 1972 and there was mention, too, of a boat ride on the Rhine, the castles and fairytale villages, and the cops driving Volkswagens.  I was excited about seeing the Olympic tower pictured on the front of the card.  Two weeks after we got home eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed by terrorists.  I can’t look at mementos from Germany and not remember.


After awhile, I stuck the postcards back in the drawer and sorted the other odds and ends — pens and stamps and return address labels.  I threw away dozens of labels as the only envelopes I mail these days are bills and I’m glad I don’t have that many to pay.  Ah…two jump drives jumped out at me.  Sometime I’ll see what’s on them.

I found thank-you notes and addresses on slips of paper.  A Spanish saying on a piece of torn notebook paper:  El amor es ciego, pero los vecinos no (Love is blind, but the neighbors aren’t).  And a lovely paragraph from an old church bulletin from Frederick Buechner’s The Magnificient Defeat that ends like this:  “It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence.  That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle we really get.” I think about everyday miracles.  Like the things you find in drawers.  Memories.  Simple, profound, amazing.  

Finally, I selected one of the generic freebie notepads and took it down to the kitchen to use for my grocery lists.  I started to stick the notepad in one of the compartments of the wicker stand catch-all that was bulging with all matter of paraphernalia, and it struck me…

THIS needs cleaning out!

And so I did.












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