Monday, June 30, 2008

Straightening My Underwear Drawer

By the end of this sunny day, the forsythia spikes in the yard may burst full yellow against blue sky. Frogs and birds clamor from swamp and swaying limb, calling, “Come forth and walk or weed whack!”

Eventually, I will.

For now, however, I am sequestered inside. Last night I made the mistake of trying to locate a specific necklace to wear to a friend’s home for dinner. This resulted in a frenzy of flinging, an eruption of socks, undies and camisoles while plumbing the depths of my underwear drawer in pursuit of my gray-bead necklace. I found it, but now my bedroom is strewn with the detritus of the search, leaving me no choice but to purge.

Although it is probably the first place your average robber would rummage, my underwear drawer holds my most precious possessions.

The robber would be disappointed.

My favorite costume jewelry - spangled silver drops, a bounty of bangles, beaded earrings – are cleverly hidden (shhhhh) beneath my bikinis. Two clay pennants, gaily splotched with pastel glaze, are etched “To Mom” by my long-ago kindergartners. Rusting “Clinton/Gore ’96” campaign buttons and bumper stickers are jumbled among miniature Disney figures, Barbie dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids and stockings.

My underwear is balled and squished, barely given space in this drawer that bears its name.

I keep important papers here as well - greeting cards from Dave, my kids, and Mom and Dad. I love the handwriting, so reminiscent of the authors: ill-formed, awkward little kids’ scrawlings, Dave’s hurried script, Dad’s illegible letters, Mom’s cheerful, looping, penmanship. I’ve saved these samples to call up the writers once they are grown up or gone.

Tearfully I peruse a collection of poems and hymns, suggestions I’ve clipped together “For My Funeral.” I’ll remind the kids to check my underwear drawer when it’s time, anticipating their saying, “Mom! Don’t even talk about it!”

I flip through envelopes of mis-matched photographs - pictures of my grandmother, Byeo, hugging my six-year-old Mom, a blurry shot of toddler Casey dressed as a bride, and Tucker at five, grinning at the prospect of breakfast served in bed as a special treat. My senior-year picture occupies an envelope along with Dave's, Casey’s and Tucker’s. All four of us, our adolescent skin air-brushed to perfection, smile formally - so much younger! A muddle of memories mixed up with my stockings and socks.

There are jury notices, passbooks from banks that have closed, and IRS envelopes, some from ’94 and ’95. I have organized this drawer before, but apparently not very well.

I make separate piles on the floor: formal papers, letters, cards, toys, jewelry and, oh yes, underwear. The wastebasket overflows; the drawer is now neat and self-contained. It slides in and out of the bureau unimpeded, the battle to control errant undergarments won.

The space allotted for each component remains constant: a layer of little dolls, clay pendants and campaign buttons on the bottom, socks and underwear piled neatly on top, to the left side. A box of bangles and earrings is tucked in one corner, and my abbreviated life file - pictures, poems, papers, letters and memos – spans from the middle of the drawer to the right.

I trot outside to the garbage bin and shake the wastebasket, upside down. A flurry of faded snapshots, outdated notices and cast-off knick-knacks tumble like blown dandelion weed. I re-think a few items and snatch them back, then turn to admire the forsythia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Lea,

Your beautiful composition reminds me of an excerpt from an Adrienne Rich poem:

Vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards
in the lamplight, with small rainbow-colored shells...
Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,
the striving for greatness, brilliance--
only with the musing of a mind
one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing
dark against bright, silk against roughtness,
pulling the tenets of a life together
with no mere will to mastery,
only care...

Thank you for offering your rainbow-colored shells to us with such care.