Just the other day, my wife and I took a little trip. It was partly an excuse to visit my mother and family as well as my in-laws, but there was another reason for the journey. We had to return a certain little cabinet.
Many years ago, back when my mother-in-law was a little toddler, her dad cobbled together a small cabinet so she’d have something with which to play house. It had two small drawers on the right side, a larger door on the left, a low counter above them and then two tiny shelves, with glass doors covering them, above that. As my wife said, “He made it out of some scrap wood he found lying around the house.”
One of the first things her mother did was to scratch her nickname, “Skeeter,” into the counter. She also wrote a very personal message on the cabinet. It was a declaration of love to her first boyfriend.
Mind you, my mother-in-law was all of about four or five at the time. Naturally, she couldn’t write it anywhere that someone might see it. Oh my, she would die of pure embarrassment, if anyone ever saw the message. Thus, she wrote a brief note expressing her love to said fellow on the back edge of a drawer. She would always know it was there, but no one else would ever see it.
She played with that old thing, all through her childhood, and then it went into storage. Of course, it didn’t stay there. No, once she had children of her own, among them girls, the dusty old cabinet came out of storage; they cleaned it up.
All her daughters used that old cabinet; they spent many happy hours playing with it. Not one of them ever learned about the secret note. It was a good thing, too, as their mother’s vow of love had not been made to their father! Ah well, a lost love, what can one do about such things?
Then, as time and tide wait for no one, her daughters moved on, grew up and the cabinet once more assigned to a closet or garage. As it happened, her first grandchild was a girl and thus the cabinet had a new owner. It would be still more years later, but once my daughter was old enough to play with toys, she inherited the cabinet and did she have fun with it!
At first, my daughter was so tiny, she could literally crawl into the little cabinet on the left and close the door. That became the storage spot for her smaller stuffed animals and hand puppets. The drawers were filled with little kitchen utensils, the counter was occasionally a stove, and dishes, plates and pots and pans went on the shelves.
My wife made a point of cleaning up the cabinet, re-painting it and even created a pretty mosaic on the counter. We got new knobs for the drawers and doors. We even pulled the drawers all the way out to give them a good cleaning.
It was then we saw the words, that old and dusty message written in an aged pencil on the side of the drawer. That little scrawl in a child’s hand looked so very cute. We made sure to preserve it. After all, now that our daughter is grown and we’re preparing to move, the old cabinet has to go back into storage. That’s okay; there will come a day when it will go into service once more.
I’m sure Skeeter and her dad will be so very pleased.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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