Rummage (verb) to search unsystematically and untidily through a mass or receptacle. The particular receptacle is a chest of drawers that I bought in the 1980s. Though it was made up of components that were refitted and embellished to appear stately, it rapidly unraveled to “seen better days.” Alas, I had great hopes for its ancestry.
The good intentions of the woodworker did not rule the day because veneer chips rain regularly. I’m sentimental about its wonky look. Besides it’s the repository of dreamy implements – some forgotten and some filed. I rummage through the contents as a matter of course.
One drawer doesn’t quite fit. It glides out too quickly fanning with yellowed newsprint, twisted and stuffed toward the back. The Travel section from The New York Times had a hold on me in 2014. One essay touts Bonavista Peninsula, New Foundland. Was it the ghost towns, puffins or unspoiled views that prompted my wanderlust there? Another double-paged review of a Pullman rail journey from Chicago to New Orleans explodes with color. Hope sprang eternal with the celebration of a bridge between my daughters’ territories, a span that will soon be redirected.
A giddy stack of books crowd each other and stand by for gifting. The drawer was christened “The Stash” as soon as it landed in house. Current largess includes: A Special Edition of The Boxcar Children, 2 copies of Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee, Moo Animal Noises, Living An Examined Life by James Hollis, PhD, Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.
There is a carrot shaped container half filled with bubble mixture from Easter, a journal labeled Urban Birdwatching, a pack of recipe cards for jazzy drinks and 2 state park hand towels. Inside an ancient sack is a pattern and cut out pieces for a bib that my mother was making when she died – the monkey eating a banana designed to hug the baby’s neck was too bittersweet to see to its conclusion as I did for countless of her other projects, so it sits inside just as she rolled it up, a hug from beyond.
There is a knitted baby’s hat with indistinguishable animal ears, several “wavy knives” designed for tiny hands in the kitchen, a paper fan, a Halloween card game, journals mimicking library cards of old, bookmarks as bonuses for giftees citing the lyrics of This Is My Father’s World, and a book of stencils worn down by handmade specials created by my younger self.
I must bend a bit to unstick the drawer housing a copy of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine dated May 1879. My grandfather ceremoniously presented its withered contents to me from the top of his chest of drawers whence all treasures flow. Memory doesn’t allow me to know why he kept this artifact, but I felt his keen-ness on the subject. The pages are held together by cracked shipping tape and showcase etchings as if reality was a fairy tale from another time and galaxy: “Mail-coach from Northampton,” “a piano on the frontier,” “officers’ quarters on the upper Missouri,” “log cabin of poor whites,” and a cartoonish depiction of African Americans rounding up sheep.
Bequeathed. I am the rightful guardian so he handed it over with 2 buck-eyes that rolled nearby. My mother was not impressed.
Beside it are two books on the Sabbath loaned to me from Jewish relations and two tiny wooden frames with art from revered college companion Merrill McKewen. In miniature cross stitch, she noted both of our children by celebrating their names and birthdates. The pictures bide their time for yet another hanging as I am prone to landscape changes in the house.
Inside a cloth bag, a curled collection of destinies that I received by way of fortune cookies or Christmas gift tags from relatives who prefer more than the traditional to.. and from.. Some worthy of curation were “Chances of Glamour and Excitement Are Coming to You” or “Different Strokes for Different Folks.” And how about, “You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that is where the fruit is” and my all time favorite: “You are heading in the right direction.”
A wicker tray of porcelain miniatures await, a few chipped and cracked. A pig band, male accordion players, court jesters, dancing ladies, deers, birds and baskets. What to make of this story line, kids?
A metal tag, white and brilliant turquoise, strung with wire that once adorned a rose bush planted in our back yard around 1950. The variety named Medallion still thrives there. While digging in the dirt, I saw a glint through rocky soil: This AARS Rose after two years of actual growing tests in all parts of the United States has proven to be a superior variety.
The Medallion medal sits in the bottom of an acrylic box along with a sterling silver charm bracelet from my girlhood, mostly charmless now as some have been donated to the cause of family members. The box once held Sparkle Pops made in Turkey and sold by the US company Sugarfina. I made short order of the “big burst of sparkle and pop” candies presented by my daughter Quinn.
There are seeds from the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center – a Whippoorwill Pea and a John Allen Cut-Short – beans stamped to “refrigerate or freeze until use”. Big sigh. A stack of healing words bound with a blue ribbon stand neatly to the side, a tribute to my father’s personality. There are warped paper coasters from various stops: Graduate Hotels, Prune and Pinewood Social and then, TADA. Finally, I spot it.
Shining in that special place where it was pigeonholed. An unlikely matching key which was loaded onto the ring that Bonnie Bee mailed to me. It reads: All Who Wander Are Not Lost.
Sheesh. To have the journey sanctioned – because in the words of encourager Sadhguru: “If you learn how to live it, life is nothing short of a daily miracle.”