Today I decided to disassemble a puzzle I have completed. There are a few pieces yet to put in place but the fun parts that were exciting and challenging are finished. All that is left is the ambiguous pieces that just take hours of trial and error with each piece to see if they fit because they are all the same colour and there is little sense of distinction. I feel it is completed.
I pulled out the box and thought to myself how nice it is when people put puzzles into bags with a zip at the top. It seems to contain them better and protects the pieces as the box gets worn. There is less likelihood of loss. I went to my middle slider of the only bank of drawers in my wee kitchen. As I pulled it open and viewed the contents I was catapulted back to my mother’s kitchen. The greatest chunk of my childhood was lived in an old house on the main road. It was built in 1862. I know this specifically because my father had purchased those numbers and put them on the house. Many people thought it was our address.
This old house, built in 1862, was many things. A post office, a funeral home and then a private home which dad bought in 1971. My mother was so excited to move to “town”. Town being a loose term for the tiny village where the house could loosely be seen as on the outskirts. She had pined to get off the farm, move from the dead end of a lane, and be in the thick of things. She wanted to move from a place that I now dream of living. Funny how things come ‘round.
Anyway, back to the drawer. My mother’s kitchen, in this old house, I believe was constructed in 1862, when the house was built! The layers of paint, I am sure, had they been tested, could have been filled with lead and the insides were a playground for the tiny critters that lived alongside us in this old place. The cupboards were built in place with no boxes, like today, that would contain the contents.
The old drawer she had housed everything from bread ties to recycled plastic bags. There were “pig nose” sockets and screwdrivers. Boxes of foil wrap, wax paper and extension cords. In the corners you could find crumbs and lots of little particles of unknown origins. There was tape, a loose screw, and the odd dowel. Like the wardrobe in a C.S. Lewis novel, if you opened this drawer you could enter an alternate universe. To my child’s thinking it was a mess, today it would be a treasure trove.
As I pulled open the drawer in my kitchen this day, I found it to be much the same as my mother’s drawer. Minus the obvious mouse turds surely found in a home built in 1862, there were crumbs, wire ties, boxes of foil wrap, parchment paper and recycled bread bags. No extension cords mind you. There was a plastic jar with measuring spoons, and many recycled brown lunch bags. I looked for a plastic zip bag for my puzzle.
The box that held any new bags had been disposed of long ago. All I found were used bags. Some with crumbs and some without. Some a little cloudy and some with used parchment paper. With pride I held these bags to my chest and cried a little. This treasure trove of a drawer connected me with my mother once again. Gave me the moment to be thankful for her quirks, her annoying habits and her frugal nature. The story of having $2 from cream to buy a week’s groceries flashed into my mind and her frustration with her 1862 set of kitchen cupboards rang in my head like the chimes of an English church steeple.
As I work with the aging, I am reminded again and again that all we have are memories and teachings from our past to keep us going. The older I get the more memories I accumulate and the more precious each day, I live, becomes. As I work with the aging and watch as families fuss and fret over guilt and annoyances, I want to call from the mountain top, “just be present”.
My mother’s drawer, like in a C.S. Lewis novel, takes me back and as I realized I could not put the puzzle pieces into a used bag along with crumbs of my past. I gathered up the puzzled and put it in the box. As I pulled apart the pieces of the picture, I realized my mother’s drawer is just that, a piece of puzzle in a life that will one day be put together by my children and grandchildren as they remember their own mother’s drawer.