The Memory Boats

There are times when you turn corners in life without quite realizing what’s happened. It’s only when you stumble across the reminders that you realize how much time has passed and how far you’ve come on your journey. — Story Guru

Lisa Wingate thumb1For years around here we’ve been in the busy season of work commitments, man-child activities, book travel, and the general scramble that comes with the transitional years of fluffing out fledgling humans and preparing them to fly from the nest.

In the meantime, the nest has slowly deteriorated. A post by our wonderful Belle Friday, Nicole Seitz, a few weeks ago, inspired me. Nicole shared her amazing redecorating efforts and her (brilliant I think) literary master bath, papered with pages from her books. Those photos spurred me to action.

I started in the kitchen, moved through bedrooms, and the weekend before Easter, landed on the master bath, where a mini-remodel included new shower tile and a restyled vanity featuring a gorgeous vessel sink.

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The vessel sink necessitated taking down the medicine cabinet, which necessitated cleaning out my husband’s junk drawer in the vanity so items from said medicine cabinet could be place inside.

To say this was a journey would be an understatement. No matter who it belongs to, there’s nothing quite like the wacky, wild, and sometimes wondrous world of the junk drawer.

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They’re like tiny time capsules filled with stuff of life – these places where we empty our pockets at the closing of the day, or sweep our counter clutter when company is coming over, or tuck away a phone number we might eventually need, or toss a Happy Meal toy that’s found in the bottom of the laundry hamper. Sooner or later the kid will notice it’s gone, and you’ll be reminded to rescue it.

Or not. Sometimes, you find yourself years later, sitting on the floor with the junk drawer propped in your lap as you sniffle over that tiny matchbox car, or leftover tokens from Chuck E Cheese, or shiny pebbles discovered among the roadside gravel on a family vacation, or wrinkled school photos cut crooked along the edges, To Dad, hapy valintin’s day! scrawled across the back in first-grade print.

Some finds are not so sentimental… like this one. Technically speaking, this little wonder is a combination of comb, dental floss pick, red-white-and-blue memory ribbon, and plastic creepy crawler, all nicely sealed together with a rubber band that has decayed to the consistence of Gorilla Glue.

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I guess at this point, you could look at it as sculpture…. maybe?

Yet even as I marvel and chuckle to myself, there are reminders here. There’s a little boy who loved bugs, and dinosaurs, and the nature channel, and wanted to be a scientist before he could even say the word. There are the days after 911, when stores were sold out of anything red, white, and blue.

The past flows free like water breaching the walls of a sandcastle. It fills spaces I thought were vacant. Memories float to the surface.

Years ago as a young mom working on my second novel, I wrote these words during a toddler’s nap time:

It’s strange, I thought, how memories are like boats floating out from their anchors. They drift through the edges of our consciousness, unnoticed, unexamined, mere shadows, until we run across the thing to which they are anchored. Wrapping our hands around the ropes, we pull them to the dock again, and they are as clear and as real as if we had experienced them yesterday.

Memories can be anchored to anything—a person, a place, a taste, a scent, an object, a melody….

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So I sail away in junk drawer, bewildered and fascinated, the tides floating in and out.  This, I’m reminded, is truth. We do not control the memories that embed themselves in the deep oceans of the mind. We’re unaware of their presence on ordinary days as we skim the glittering surface of life. Yet the real treasures lie hidden, gathering salt haze and barnacles, waiting patiently for us to wander by and trip across the mooring lines wherever they may be tied.

Even in the junk drawer.

— Lisa