When I was in Junior High, I thought my Grandfather’s desk was the best desk in the world. It hadn’t been his for very long and he probably didn’t think much of it. It had been given to my Mom by a neighbor and it was kept in the bedroom my widowed grandfather used when he would stay with us, sometimes for several months at a time. The room was actually my brothers’ room, but they were away at college.
When none of them were in residence, I took over that room. It was a toss-up between whether I liked not having to share a room with my two younger sisters, or whether I just liked the great big cherry desk with a sheet of glass protecting the top. It was the kind of desk, I imagined, that a “real” writer would have and I would love to do my school work at it. I don’t know what happened to that desk. Eventually it went somewhere — a college apartment, a garage sale, to another neighbor — but it never became mine.
Several years ago as I was picking my son up at a friend’s house, I saw a garage sale in progress at a neighbor’s, with a beautiful big desk sitting in the front lawn. That’s mine, I thought instantly and turned into the drive. A few minutes later, after getting the homeowner to agree that she would throw in the chair and get her brother to deliver the desk, I gave her $50 and directions to my house. You’ll have it before 6. I want it gone before my husband gets home, she said.
I didn’t think twice about why she wanted it out of her house or whether there would be some renegotiation necessary if her husband came home early. At 5:55, two men showed up at my front door and deposited the desk in my living room. It won’t fit through the door to the bedroom, they said, then turned and left. It remained in my living room for several months, until I got someone to take the door off the hinges and move the ridiculously heavy desk into its place.
Five feet long and 3 feet deep, the desk dominated the spare bedroom. There was plenty of room on it for my PC (we didn’t call them desktops then, as there weren’t any notebook computers) and the large laser printer, plus books, trinkets, permission slips, all sorts of things that could get lost. It wasn’t cherry and it didn’t have a glass top but I finally had my big “writerly” desk. It even had the extensions for typewriters — although I don’t think that I’ve owned a typewriter since before I acquired the desk.
I’ve moved it from house to house and it was only after having it for about 1o years that I figured out that the top could be removed. I now have a note taped to the bottom of the pencil drawer with instructions on disassembly and a reminder that the top is 2/3 of the weight of the entire desk.
Tonight, continuing on an organizational mission, I thought I would tackle sorting one of the desk drawers. I’ve found lots of interesting things as I’ve reorganized this old desk: photos, a few grade school report cards, my son’s SAT and AP test results and his college acceptance letter; the card my son bought for his great-grandmother’s 101st birthday – never sent because she died before it was mailed; 32 cent stamps and lots of stationery, though I rarely write letters (except on occasion to dear friends, like Emily to whom I owe a letter), my father’s slide ruler; miscellaneous cards — thank yous, birthdays, new baby, congratulations, blank postcards — probably all that I bought meaning to send but never did; my husband’s father’s retractable tape measure engraved on both sides with his name; a pin I bought at Stratford in 1980; a family photo when I was about three; and a lavender and maroon ribbon that must have been my pledge ribbon when I was a Freshman in college.
Most things have gone into the wastebasket or the shredder. When was the last time I received cancelled checks? I still had some from 1995. Kid memorabilia? It’s all gone into a box, to be sorted some rainy or snowy day and condensed into some sort of memory book. I may never need to buy another pen again, if I keep those I have verified as working someplace — but they don’t all need to be in my pencil drawer.
I don’t have the glass top, but it isn’t practical with an optical mouse. The desk is too big and allows far too much clutter for someone like me who is organizationally challenged and easily distracted by bright shiny objects. But there’s room on the desk for my laptop and my printer, sometimes my camera, pictures, papers, books and books and books. And inside, the drawers are now neat and tidy, but there is still room for a few mementos, like my father’s slide ruler which is a mysterious to me as an astrolabe, and the photo, and measure and a few other things.