Monday, July 18, 2016

Junk Drawers

Columbia Spy is privileged to publish several articles by Columbia native Mike Clark, the second of which appears here, with permission of the author. The essays were previously published inThe Globe Leader and 50-plus Senior News and will continue to be reprinted in the Spy over the next few weeks.

"Junk Drawers"
by Mike Clark
I have difficulty finding certain objects around the house. It has less to do with a failing memory than with the countless number of places where I could have put those objects after I used them last. It takes some time to sort through all the possibilities.

If you remember my column called "My Workshop," you are familiar with my struggles in organization and neatness.
The other day I was looking for a tiny screwdriver (I have several) to fix one of my grandchildren's toys. Before I started walking in circles and looking in the same places more than once, which is my usual routine, my wife suggested that I look in my junk drawer.

"Gee, which one?" I asked. That's right: I have more than one junk drawer. And who else but me should know better about going directly to a junk drawer when I need things that I could not find anywhere else?

After all, I am the creator of junk drawers. My wife should never have to suggest it.
I'm of the impression, based on no scientific evidence whatsoever, that we all have junk drawers—special places where we keep small items that we will use, or even think we will use, in the future.

I'm talking about little items that might include mini-tools, hooks and fasteners, pins and springs, strings and short lengths of rope, wires, cords, watch parts, favorite writing instruments that will probably never write again, and sometimes small boxes and containers that might someday hold a sentimental souvenir.

The list of potentially purposeful items is endless. Take your own inventory when you get the time.

We keep these things in drawers because there is not always a good, specific place for them; they cannot be hung on a pegboard with larger tools and gadgets.
And among the functional junk that is useful by itself, there are random parts and pieces that might not be functional alone, but added to other parts and pieces, we can create new things.

Look at some of the great art created from junk. OK, that's mostly created from much larger junk than we can keep in our drawers, but you get my point.

The immutable truth is, the day after we get rid of anything in our closet cache of junk is the day we will need it. So, if I think there's even a remote chance that I might need a piece, a part, or a tiny tool someday, it goes right to one of my junk drawers until that day rolls around.

And, unbelievably, there were many times when I have found a use for something weird in my depository of miscellaneous junk.

I just don't ever want to be that person in the middle of a fix-it job who says, "I wish I still had that nifty little tool or that doohickey I threw away yesterday." You know what I mean, right?

I finally found the screwdriver I needed to fix my grandchild's toy. But I found it in a junk drawer that had not been opened for a long time.

And in that drawer I found a recipe for Maryland crab cakes; two miniature bungee cords; a compass for orienteering, which I never used; a battered watch that my sister bought for me at Christmas in 1964 (it will never again keep time); two pairs of bronzed baby shoes; romantic cards and notes that my wife and I had exchanged over the years; a small wooden box that my kids bought for me at a school Christmas bazaar many years ago (it has DAD stenciled on the lid); a few stray wedding pictures; and some old photographs of the mountain cabin we once owned.

Underneath some of the other mementos and memorabilia, I found my dad's Army Air Corps discharge paper (he was a military policeman) and the leather wallet that he had in his trousers the night he fell into a deep coma in January 1963; it was a coma from which he never escaped.

The wallet contained his Social Security card, driver's license, title transfer from a 1948 Pontiac to a 1954 Ford station wagon, a couple of social club membership cards, a ticket for the first annual Loyal Order of Moose chicken barbecue, a business card for the company from which he purchased my mom's memorial stone seven months earlier, and pictures of my brother, my sister, and me.

I thought about the meaning of the things I discovered in that so-called junk drawer. So I removed the junk and made a keepsake drawer.

Mike Clark writes a regular column for The Globe Leader newspaper in New Wilmington, Pa. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in organizational behavior/applied psychology from Albright College. Mike lives outside Columbia, Pa., and can be contacted at


Sharon said...

Second time I read this and the description of your father's Wallet is my favorite part. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great Story........Thanks for sharing !!