Living Columns & Blogs

Finding joy in a drawer during a snow day

Susan Byrum Rountree.
Susan Byrum Rountree.

Ah, snow days. Cooped up, as we were for days felt a bit close, even though it’s just the two of us. Off from work so soon after we were both off for Christmas break gives too much time to pick. The only one in our house who likes a Snowpocalypse is the dog, who runs into his 13-degree morning, trotting around the yard as if it’s a glorious spring day.

Each morning and afternoon we met his best friend Sookie at the corner, and since few cars braved our icy streets, we let them run with abandon. Reagan leaps the frozen leaf piles and dives his nose into the snow, nips at Sookie’s heels and kisses her muzzle. They’ve been friends since their college-age owners abandoned them to the comfort of their mother’s kitchens, and we’ve never seen such immersion into joys of the day.

At home looking around our house I think, well, there is joy here: time. With no way to get where I need to go, I was handed hours to do what I’d been putting off for too long – adding some order to my house so it reminds me of how my mother keeps hers every day.

Sometimes I think, if something happened to me, my kids (or horrors, my friends) will have to scrounge through my kitchen and closets for things they need, only to find my underpinnings in disarray. So I set about remedying that, organizing the sock drawer, folding my scarves into neat rows, as if I expect this to last more than a day. In the kitchen, I pull out all my herbs and spices and set them back, alphabetically. Not quite like leaping leaf piles, but joy to me.

And then, the dreaded kitchen drawer.

Everybody has that place where everything goes that has nowhere else. When opened, remnants of nothing and everything pop out like Pandora’s Box. But until you dump everything out you’ll never know what’s there. So I dump, and begin my excavation.

Pulling the trash out is easy. Expired coupons, old receipts, crumbs. But soon it feels like an exploration, as I mine long-forgotten trinkets hidden in the litter, some sequestered in The Drawer pretty much as long as I have had a kitchen. The Chinese fortune from my first experience with Hot & Sour Soup that reads: “Happy events will take place shortly in your home.” My son would be born the next day, 30 years ago this month.

Photographs from an old billfold – pictures of my children at every age from 6 months to 17 years. There is the last picture I ever took of my grandmother, laughing at my daughter, 2, who is off camera.

Two old drivers licenses remind me too much of how I’ve aged. There is a list of 19 books I read in 2014; some loved (“The Painted Girls,” “Guests on Earth,” “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats,” “A Light Between the Oceans,” all theOutlander” novels) and one I actually hated (“The Goldfinch”).

And there is the piece of paper my daughter used to write down our mobile phone numbers, in her round middle school handwriting. We taped it to the top of the phone, right above the drawer.Though the kids were grown, I can’t throw it away.

Zip drives with no identification; 43 return addresses torn from Christmas cards; the digital photo card containing pictures of my daughter’s engagement and the day her wedding dress arrived. Fourteen colored Sharpies, seven mechanical pencils and six black pens – my husband swears he can never find one. A $10 roll of quarters with my name written in my grandfather’s hand.

When I’m done, I roll my earphones onto the new clip Santa puts in my stocking every year, bundle the pens and put my treasures back in the drawer to find again, maybe during next year’s snow vacation.

Susan Byrum Rountree, a bit more ordered than a few days ago, can be reached at