I have a box of teeth in the drawer of my bedside table. The inch-square, jeweled box was in the drawer of my mother's bedside table. I kinda think the teeth are mine. In the 12 years since my mother died, I have yet to be able to throw the box away. Enter through the portal into the complex inner-workings of an aging human.
Everyone has a drawer. Bedside table, kitchen, desk, my husband's in a keyless cubby in his dresser that you either have to pry with a pen or claw open with your fingernails. An anthropologist would find the answers to our interests, fears, loves and parental influences with a Sherlock Holmesian poke through our drawers.
One elemental clue is where is the drawer? My husband Bill's bedside table is empty - hmmm, but he still keeps his history's flotsam in the privacy of the bedroom. Maybe those whose "drawers" are exposed and openly available in the kitchen or in their desks are fearless or hope someone will discover how interesting they are. Mine is close - right next to my bed - so my needed treasures are kept private and right at hand during the most vulnerable six to eight hours of my day.
What does your drawer tell the world about you? What's in there? OK, I got organized and jigsaw-puzzled several little plastic baskets to keep my "stuff" from intermingling. Ergo, I am orderly.
One basket holds hand cream, a nail file (hate shaggy nails), lavender oil (soothing when I have trouble sleeping) and lip balm (processed air causes icky cracked lips). Another basket holds the cerebral tools: sharp pencils for the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle, various bookmarks (most came from my mother's drawer - travel treasures I gave her), a bag of polished rocks (to finger when I have monkey-mind and can't get back to sleep) and my mother's tiny bejeweled box of baby teeth. Floating free at the back of the drawer are scissors, an ancient canister of pepper spray (hey, we used to live in the country), a dog leash (in case of tornado), my reading glasses and a writing pad for moments of brilliance. The tiny, carved wood talismans allowed to wander on their own through the drawer are the second-weirdest - after the box of teeth. A friend gave them to me in a hollowed-out bean (long since disappeared) for good luck. I can't toss them away for fear of conjuring bad juju.
Bill's drawer is a mishmash (disorganized, humm?) of a 30-year-old scuba diving certification card, Mardi Gras beads, a wedding band from one of his previous marriages, notes from his kids (aww!), his passport, 50 Euro, a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" pin, a picture of him running a race in San Francisco, shoestrings, a patch kit from the water bed he had when we met (long, long gone) and a picture of us dancing at an Art Deco ball.
I think Bill is a more interesting study than I. Maybe his drawer says that he treasures his past, is ready for adventure or just hasn't gotten around to dumping all that old stuff. I seem to be sentimental about my mom, have trouble sleeping, am a careful dog parent and am superstitious.
Young people believe they will live forever. They are in the process of crafting their past. We mature people have a heap of history that can be clutching fingers that keep us from today. We can use our history as a sturdy foundation for who we are and who can be - or - we can schlep all the old "who we weres" and "what used to bes" that hinder us from relishing today and moving forward.
After being the one to pry through my mother's private drawer-world that exposed how vulnerable she was and how dear she held her past, I dread dropping dead before I clean out my drawer - my quirks and vulnerabilities standing naked before whoever empties it. Winter is my time of year for such cleaning. I will keep all the bookmarks my mom kept, sharpen my pencils, re-think the tiny talismans and I hope, this year, I'll be able to toss that box of teeth.
Candace Wade wrote the book "Horse Sluts - The Saga of Two Women on the Trail of Their Yeehaw." She has contributed to Horse Nation, Mature Lifestyles, Riding and Writing, The Tennessean and is a member of American Horse Publications. Candace writes political diatribe, wrote "Hillary's View" pet column and four unpublished film scripts. She learned to ride at age 46 and still rides at 59+.