“My Junk Drawer”

By Robert Kirwan

Every now and then I get the urge to go through my cluttered office in an effort to get rid of some of the “junk” that has accumulated over time. There are so many things lying around that I haven’t needed in years and I can always use the space that would be created by throwing out stuff I don’t need. A few weeks ago I got that urge to do some “cleaning”.
I decided to start with the bottom drawer in my desk. This is what I refer to as my “junk drawer” simply because whenever I don’t have a specific place to put something, I toss it into the “junk drawer” where it tends to remain forever. At first glance, the contents looked exactly like a collection of odds and ends that one would certainly classify as junk. However, as I picked up each item, giving serious consideration to tossing it into the garbage can, I found myself unable to part with it. For you see, each item contained memories of experiences and treasured moments in my life. After a couple of hours looking over the memorabilia and replacing each one back into the drawer, I realized this was an impossible task. I hadn’t thrown a single item out. All I had done was rearrange the items neatly in the drawer.
As it turned out, later that evening I came across a little story written by Robert Fulghum about his seven year old daughter, Molly.
It was Molly’s job to hand her father his brown paper lunch bag each morning before he headed off to work. One morning, in addition to his usual lunch bag, Molly handed him a second paper bag. This one was worn and held together with duct tape, staples, and paper clips.
“Why two bags” Fulghum asked.
Molly answered. “Just some stuff. Take it with you.”
Reluctantly, Fulghum stuffed both sacks into his briefcase, kissed Molly and rushed off. At midday, while hurriedly downing his real lunch, he tore open Molly’s bag and shook out the contents: two hair ribbons, three small stones, a plastic dinosaur, a pencil stub, a tiny sea shell, two animal crackers, a marble, a used lipstick, a small doll, two chocolate kisses, and 13 pennies.
Fulghum smiled, finished eating, and swept the desk clean – into the wastebasket – leftover lunch, Molly’s junk and all.
That evening, Molly ran up behind him as he read the paper.
“Where’s my bag?”
“What bag?”
“You know the one I gave you this morning.”
“I left it at the office. Why?”
“I forgot to put this note in it,” she said. “And, besides, those are my things in the bag, Daddy, the ones I really like. I thought you might like to play with them, but now I want them back. You didn’t lose the bag, did you, Daddy?”
“Oh, no,” he said, lying. “I just forgot to bring it home. I’ll bring it tomorrow.”
While Molly hugged her father’s neck, he unfolded the note that had not made it into the sack: “I love you, Daddy.”
Molly had given him her treasures – all that a 7-year-old held dear. Love in a paper sack, and he missed it – not only missed it, but had thrown it in the wastebasket. So back he went to the office. Just ahead of the night janitor, he picked up the wastebasket and poured the contents on his desk.
After washing the mustard off the dinosaurs and spraying the whole thing with breath-freshener to kill the smell of onions, he carefully smoothed out the wadded ball of brown paper, put the treasures inside and carried it home gingerly, like an injured kitten. The bag didn’t look so good, but the stuff was all there and that’s what counted.
After dinner, he asked Molly to tell him about the stuff in the sack. It took a long time to tell. Everything had a story or a memory or was attached to dreams and imaginary friends. Fairies had brought some of the things. He had given her the chocolate kisses, and she had kept them for when she needed them.
As I finished reading the story, I realized how important those things in my desk drawer were to me. That drawer was just like Molly’s bag of treasures. There were the two dried up dandelions that my granddaughter had picked for me two summers ago. I kept them because she was so excited about giving Grandpa some flowers. Then there was the old photo of me standing in my backyard holding in my hands the very first pay cheque I ever received when I started my first summer job. There was the old hockey puck that my son gave me in Kingston when he came off the ice after officiating his very first OHL hockey game. For two hours I picked up item after item and each brought back fond memories. I just couldn’t throw them away. I would be throwing away those special moments in my life.
Molly and I seemed to have a lot in common. My problem is that my treasures have been collected and accumulated over a much longer period of time than seven years. Everywhere I turn I see treasures that have a great deal of significance to me and in many cases, to me alone. They may not seem like much to others, but they mean a lot to me.
So the next time you get the urge to “clean up and declutter”, forget about what the experts say about throwing out things you no longer use. Most of those things meant something special to you at one time in your life.  We must all remember that it’s not the destination that counts in life – it’s the journey. The journey with the people we love is all that really matters. And the things in that bottom drawer in my desk remind me about those people. I don’t think that drawer will ever get cleaned out, so I guess I should just buy myself a bigger desk. You should see my garage.
Have a good week.