One Man’s Trash

“Naw, let’s just leave it there for now.” Mama said over her shoulder as she washed a plate and arranged it with others in the rack.

I didn’t ask why I couldn’t have it, I just dropped the rusty key back into the drawer and watched it disappear between a crushed matchbook and a small ball of frayed string.

When I was little the drawer by the refrigerator was a mystery. The clanking sounds made as Mama or Daddy dug through it and the strange faces they made when they picked up one item or another, stared and tossed it back, were intriguing. Finally tall enough to open it myself, I’d spent a few minutes running my hand through the odd assortment of things in the drawer. If Mama wouldn’t let me have the rusty key I didn’t dare ask about the torn Queen of Hearts playing card, the bent thumb tack, or the random assortment of colored bread ties. They must really be valuable.

A few years passed before I opened the drawer again. Although it was directly beside the refrigerator, which I opened often, the drawer usually faded into the cabinet. It caught my eye that day so I pulled it open. Taller now, I could see and reach even further into its mysterious depths. I fished out a cracked cigarette lighter with half an old crayon stuck to its side, the words “Burnt Umber” still visible on the crayon’s fragile paper. To the left, tucked behind the microwave’s yellowing owner’s manual, was an old pair of broken sunglasses. With a questioning look I held them in the air to show Mama as she came back from the store with a bag of groceries.

“Naw, let’s just leave it in there for now.” She maneuvered around me to put milk in the refrigerator.

I looked in the drawer several times over the years, at first to ease my curiosity but later to laugh and wonder how the useless random items spent decades in that sliding time capsule without being thrown away. In my spot checks of the drawer I never saw anything missing and rarely saw anything added other than a few questionable AAA batteries, an occasional dry rotted rubber band, and the cracked cap of a long-gone ballpoint pen.

I vowed never to have a drawer like that in my house.

Years later in my own home I hung pictures one afternoon. When done, rather than take the hammer back to the basement, I lazily dropped it into the drawer by my refrigerator. I giggled to myself when I saw familiar bread ties and an old shoelace already taking up space there. Some time later I lost the key to a small luggage lock. Thinking I’d eventually find it I put the little lock into the drawer for safe keeping. When my daughter’s doll lost a hand I put it in the drawer along with the tiny tire from one of my son’s toy cars. I knew they’d be safe there with the broken pencil sharpener and a feather.

As my kids grew older and taller they discovered my drawer. They caught me off guard the day they asked to play with a broken wristwatch they dug from its contents.

“Naw, let’s just leave it in there for now.” I heard myself say.

I was always puzzled by my parents’ junk drawer. I was even more puzzled by my own. Why do we keep odd bits of trash? I had locks with no keys, keys to no locks, and I actually struggled one day before throwing away a peppermint I found stuck in the drawer’s back corner behind a broken shoehorn.

My kids are older teenagers now. Will they also collect little drawers of debris when they start homes of their own?  That very thought crossed my mind last year during my daughter’s high school graduation weekend. While she went out with friends, my son and I sat in his room happily chatting about nothing. As he reached into his closet for a guitar, a non-descript little tin can rolled out into the room. Thinking it trash, I picked it up and walked towards the door. He stared at me for a second then nodded back towards the closet as he spoke.

“Naw, let’s just leave it in there for now.”

Stuart M.Perkins




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203 responses to “One Man’s Trash

  1. Pingback: REBLOG: One Man’s Trash By Stuart M.Perkins – Borntowintheworld your Home of Unmatched INSPIRATIONS > LATEST NEWS > LIFESTYLE > SPORT > GOSSIPS >ENTERTAINMENTS > GISTS…

  2. Every one that has a kitchen has a junk drawer. – I am guessing!

  3. Always love your stories, we see life the same…

  4. Pingback: One Man’s Trash | Storyshucker | James1948's Blog

  5. I suspect we could learn a lot about people just by the contents of their junk drawers. Nice piece; you can turn a phrase with the best of them.

  6. Deborah

    Reblogged this on Memories and Treasures and commented:
    Most of us have a “junk drawer”. My mom had one, and I certainly do as well. Although he doesn’t call his a “junk drawer”, it’s a great essay on that most important drawer in our kitchen. Enjoy! And thank you, Mr. Perkins, for writing this!

  7. I laughingly can relate to your post. I have a junk drawer too and I can’t throw anything in it away! My question is why? What does that say about me? 😊

  8. wow you’re writing is amazing! I love it ❤

  9. I like your writing style. This is my family too, and is now my husband and me! Thanks for the good reads, I think I could learn a thing or two from you… Like, how do you add hashtags?

  10. Great piece of writing, I remember the same kind of thing & yep now, I too have a messy drawer ( a few actually) lol! Thanks for sharing😎

  11. Great read. The junk drawer is a true piece of Americana. Unfortunately in my house it’s also called the garage.

  12. i wonder if it is the sentimental value, a certain memory attached, that make us keep useless things.

  13. atennismom

    Oh that junk drawer!! I have one and even don’t have the heart to clean out my parents’ junk drawer. Their home on the Rappahannock River is now mine. Daddy passed away in 2009 and I was his caregiver. Just recently, I found myself throwing some trinket back in that drawer. What for? Safe keeping I guess– let my kids deal with it when I’m gone!

  14. Love this post! I have been embarrassed about my junk drawer, but you’ve made me proud of what I thought was my oddity. I’ve tried to keep up with cleaning it out periodically. I think I’ll just leave it in there for now.

  15. Thank you for liking “Cosmic Romance.” Great story! 🙂 It is one that I can definitely relate to. My mother liked to store stuff away too. She died 11 years ago, and last year I discovered a big tin can in her room with receipts for things she bought during the 1980s and 2003! In some cases, she also stapled the duplicate copy of the check she used to pay for the items and even a picture of the item itself! I found myself asking, “Why?!” She rarely ever returned anything she bought, and the time window for returns with receipts was long over.

  16. Very nicely written.. i loved the way you have penned down things ☺

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