Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Junk drawer holds memories, too

The right drawer of the old sideboard was never intended to be a junk drawer. When I hauled the old piece of furniture home from Gull Lake, Mich., several years ago, the drawer was earmarked for such easy-to-find necessities as the calculator, ballpoint pens, and stationery, lined up neatly.

I rescued the sideboard days before the old Powell cottage was to be bulldozed to make way for a parking lot. The house was not much to look at. In fact, they always said the walls were originally canvas, but the inside was full of love. Cramped as it was when the Powell clan gathered, it was the meeting place in summer when Grandfather Powell participated in the Methodist Gull Lake Bible Conference just down the road from the cottage. He gathered the grandchildren to attend Bible school in the big tabernacle every morning, and wore a proud smile when we lined up on the front row.

We went swimming and boating together in Gull Lake. Even after extensive traveling, I believe it to be the most beautiful inland lake in this country. Gull, between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, is a lush turquoise color. It is six miles long, and is lined with estates.

The old cottage overflowed with relatives who laughed, talked, and sat around the table eating sumptuous meals following prayer. At bedtime the cousins were hustled upstairs to share limited bed space. When the lights were out, we made tents of the quilts and played Old Maid cards by flashlight and giggled, ever so softly. We got away with being naughty Methodist children, or did we?

Such nostalgia explains why the old sideboard is such a treasure. It traveled a lot through central and western Michigan before it was brought to my house. They said it was Grandma Powell's favorite piece of furniture, and was always moved in the family's frequent re-assignments in the ministry. “Rev. Powell” is scrawled in big handwriting on the back.

Shame on me for abusing the drawer in the old sideboard by stuffing it to the hilt until it became jammed and had to be pried open with a long-handled screwdriver. That's when I removed the over-loaded drawer, placed it on the dining room table, and began sorting the contents, one item at a time - it was more fascinating that daytime television.

So that's where I put the Gold Rush medallions purchased as souvenirs in Nevada City, Calif., several years ago! I was on a drive to track the old mining towns in the West, one of my favorite destinations.

So why did I buy more Scotch tape this Christmas when there were three rolls in the drawer? The same can be said for birthday candles. Why is it easier to buy more candles than to look for what you have on hand?

If there is anything I am not, it's a gambler. Still, for some reason, I had saved membership cards from Casino Windsor and the Mirage in Las Vegas, perhaps to remind me of losses. But down in the corner of the drawer, a $1 token from Sam's Town in Vegas was gathering dust. I saved it. You never know.

Then there was, and still is, the skeleton key that came with the house 18 years ago. I still don't know what it unlocks, but don't you hate to throw away a key?

I do know where the distance meter goes; on my belt to measure long walks for exercise. That's one thing I never miss, because working out in a gym is more exciting with more people to talk to than walking alone on a country road.

I wasn't surprised to find the large brass-colored magnifying glass because I use it often as the phone book print gets smaller. Besides, it was made by Gerity, a well-known manufacturer in Adrian, my hometown.

Items forgotten because they were covered by a lot of stationery include sticky pads to hold candles erect, six 23-cent stamps, a stapler that ran out of staples years ago, four pens from the Dickens House in London, a box of paper clips that was a gift on a tour of a company in Alaska that tests bread machines, and Hawaiian supermarket discount cards. Yes, I do get around; the Dickens House in London, bread machines in Alaska, groceries in Hawaii - what can I say, other than I have gypsy blood?

Even though some of the junk-drawer stash is understandable, the number of items was excessive. So what if I always fear not having a pen when I need one - do I need 40 rolling around in a drawer? With one car and one house, do I need six spare key chains?

I hesitate to admit it, but at least half of the “junk” is back in the sideboard drawer. Now, however, everything is arranged in plastic dividers, in apple-pie order. But, we all know how messy an apple pie gets once it is opened.

Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food editor. E-mail her at

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