Slice of Life 20 – Junk Drawer Memories #sol24

20 March 2024

We were talking about junk drawers at Ethical ELA yesterday with Rex Muston. I was thinking of my life’s junk drawers all day. Do you have a junk drawer or two or three?

I could have written about my present junk “basket,” which also has a bunch of  empty metal tea tins. I think they are so pretty and that they can be useful, so I add them to the basket. I haven’t put anything in them yet, so they just take up space and make it harder to find my tape and scissors.

I pulled the cans out today. Seven tea tins and one coffee. What should I put in them?

I remember one junk drawer from about 20 years ago. It hadn’t been cleaned out for way too long. I had two children finishing sixth and ninth grades, I was finishing my last year at the school where I had been teaching, I was packing and getting reading to move across the country. We splurged and hired packers along with the movers. Later that summer when I was unpacking yet another cardboard box, I found the contents of that junk drawer just poured out into a box with broken rubber bands, band-aid wrapper, dried up Super Glue, half a pack of sticky gum, broken cellphone charger cable, a key that fits who knows what, a Sharpie with no cap, plus dozens of other gems we had paid to move from Arizona to Iowa.

I chose to write my poem about one junk drawer from my childhood. I think I was six years old. In my memory, I can walk right to that drawer in the house of my childhood and find a rubber band, a paper clip, a bottle of glue, a roll of tape, and sometimes joyfully, a coin, a yoyo, a jack, or a marble. The they in my poem is probably my older sister and one or more parents. I don’t remember for sure, but I wasn’t in as much trouble as I thought I would be.

Down in the Mouth

When I saw myself in the mirror
I began to feel blue,
knowing I was going
to get in trouble.
I would talk a blue streak,
talk until I was
blue in the face
to convince them
I didn’t do anything

You see, I had
been ruminating
through the
junk drawer to find
Finally, I found it!

A tiny blue-topped
plastic bottle.
The bottle seemed
to be clear but it
had some dark liquid
inside. I didn’t
recognize it, so I
carefully untwisted
the lid, put my tongue
inside the cap, and rotated
it around and around.
When I noticed my
fingers turning blue,
I went into the bathroom.
When I saw my lips,
tongue, gums, and even teeth
were blue, I closed and locked
the door, hoping I hadn’t found
something poisonous. It
seemed to keep spreading.
I got soap, water, and
a washcloth and scrubbed–
removing a layer or two of skin
along with some of the stain.

Ah, there is always
something new to learn in
childhood physics and
chemistry. That day, I
learned the power of
food coloring and why
you only need a tiny
bit to do the job.

9 thoughts on “Slice of Life 20 – Junk Drawer Memories #sol24

  1. I loved this prompt and how it’s such a universal experience that everyone puts their own personal spin on. I can imagine you doing this and being so frightened about the consequences that the memory stuck. At least you didn’t set anything on fire!

  2. Like Margaret, I agree. “Junk drawers” do seem to be a universal experience. You got me thinking why? I like how you looked across your life and chose to write about the one from your childhood. So facinating that it sticks with you!

  3. Thank for sharing. I love the details of your thoughts and action. (I also love a good junk drawer with really unexpected stuff.)

  4. I was thinking “ink” at first, so the ending was a fun surprise. I am glad to know that junk drawers exist wherever there are people, and that I’m not the only one who, in a fatigue/fugue state, emptied and entire drawer in a shoebox, taped it shut, and labeled it “LATER,” when we moved across country.

  5. Your poem makes me smile so! I once had a preschooler get his hands on red food coloring during naptime, and I about had a heart attack when I found him ‘all bloodied’; I was so confused, he hadn’t made even a small cry, how could he be in pain? He, like you, was trying to hide what he had done – and I rearranged my cooking area for all the years thereafter, never letting the food coloring be in a child’s reach.

  6. Denise, you had me worried at first-! I loved all the blue in your poem as well as the perfectly-chosen title. Love that you chose to write about a junk drawer from your childhood and your new learning about food coloring! I can just see it, oh my.

  7. Great memories shared! I love how you tell stories about something that is such a small part of your life but has been consistent and foundational. What a way to learn the lesson of food dye! My fiancé and I recently moved into a new place, and as we unpacked the kitchen, we realized there were no extra drawers. I was quick to share my concern over no junk drawer…he disagreed, claiming we didn’t need one…we now have a junk basket 🙂

  8. I love the child’s logic of locking yourself in the bathroom in case you had poisoned yourself!
    Love the playfulness with blue expressions, especially in the first verse. Such a charming poem. I can imagine the bored child searching the junk drawer for something- anything- interesting.

  9. Denise,
    How did I miss this delightful poem earlier this week? Do you have photos? I so want to see child you w/ blue food coloring all over your mouth. Hilarious! What punishment awaited you? I feel a bit cheated not knowing. Also, paying packers to move the junk in the junk drawer is so American. I think the military paid for moving mine. LOL!

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