Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dresser Drawer Time Machine

Image courtesy of artur84
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Human beings dream of the type of time travel we see in the movies – well, maybe not in Primer. That film succeeded in making time travel look complicated, dreary, and so not sexy. Although we don’t yet have a machine, drug, or app to traipse up and down the timeline at will, we can travel to the past through memory. I took such a trip the other day when I walked into my parent’s bedroom, saw my Mom cleaning out her dresser drawers, and suddenly I was six-years-old again.

Growing up it was understood in my house that my Mom’s stuff was off limits. You don’t look and you definitely don’t touch. You touch. You die. Got it? Good. So when I was little and my Mom cleaned out her dresser drawers it was a treat when she’d let me sit and watch. She’d make two piles on the bed: stuff to keep and stuff to throw away. The throwaway pile was a mountain of goodies: scarfs, belts, colorful perfume bottles, and old purses with even more stuff. The jewelry was the best. She always seemed to have an endless supply of big beautiful chunky necklaces, clip-on earrings, and shiny bracelets.

I’d climb up on the bed and just stare. Whenever I saw something fun I’d scream with the delight of discovery and ask if I could have it. She always said yes. I’d grab it and run off to my room to put it away in my dresser drawer before she changed her mind.

I always wondered where all this amazing stuff came from and how, how, how could she be throwing it away? Was she crazy? Far from it. What I didn’t know then was that the throwaway pile was my pile. My Mom put that stuff there intentionally for me to find. And while I was picking through it she’d tell me stories; some funny, some sad, some serious. She used to tell me all the time “Never fight over a man. If another woman is in the picture it’s because he wants her there. Your fight then isn’t with her. It’s with him.”

Yeah, that’s kinda deep for a six-year-old, but some messages need to be delivered early and repeated often before the hormones cloud your thinking.

I loved listening to my Mom talk. Her voice was – and is – soft, melodic, and rich. When I was about eight-years-old she said that she had to tell me all her stories now because I wouldn’t always be with her. Again I thought she was crazy. Silly Mommy. Where would I ever be without her?

Where indeed?

And as I stood there now, a grown woman all of six-years-old, I was still completely fascinated by my Mom’s open dresser drawers. I wandered over to look inside. I couldn’t help it. I was pulled by the question, “Is something in there for me?” And while there was no throwaway pile per se, there were one or two things my Mom had set aside for me; trinkets she knew I’d like. But the true treasure was that my Mom was talking and I was listening.

I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not as easy to do now as when I was six. Shared DNA doesn’t always facilitate intergenerational communication. Sometimes DNA and time are the things that most get in the way. It’s like the clear, bulletproof glass in urban Chinese food restaurants. We can see each other, but we have to shout to be heard, and our understanding of what the other is saying is rudimentary at best.

This is complicated by the fact that you get to an age when you think you know all the stories. And maybe you do. But that’s why we re-read books and re-watch movies. We do it with the implicit understanding that our journey down our own personal timelines will bring a different, deeper, and more nuanced understanding.

So, it was the quiet, magnetic power of memory – unexpectedly found inside an open dresser drawer – that let me hear my Mom’s sometimes funny, sad, and serious familiar stories with a new ear. It was a much-needed impromptu primer that there’s no time machine better than love. And that Mom schwag still holds sway.

The Urban Erma, the longest running column on StageTimeMagazine.com, was created and written by stand-up comedian Leighann LordListen to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher RadioWatch the video edition on YouTube.comIf you enjoy The Urban Erma please leave a comment, Like it on Facebook, follow on Twitter, And share it with your friends. (Share it with people who are not your friends and maybe they will be.) TheUrbanErma@gmail.com Get her free e-books of The Great Spanx Experiment and Sometimes I Wish Facebook Had a Hate Button. 


Suffolk Sammy said...

Very much enjoyed reading this. Keep up the good work.

Leighann Lord said...

Glad you enjoyed it Sammy!