I Need More Room


“Keep a thing seven years and you’ll find a use for it.” 

          That was Dad’s favorite cliché whenever he added to the ever-growing pile of odds and ends in a dark corner of the stable.  Today, thanks to his example, I probably rank among the top ten on the “Compulsive Hoarders” list.  But when I can’t find room in the cupboards, on the desk, under the beds, or behind the chesterfield for my latest acquisition, it becomes a major heart-rending operation to effect a solution. 

          One of those crises arose last weekend, when my younger son proudly presented me with the first product of his latest hobby – a large bowl, hand-carved from the burl of a red cedar tree.  If only it had been about four inches in diameter there would have been no problem – filled with bobby-pins it would fit on the dressing-table.  However, following the contours of the burl to perfection, this bowl measured eighteen inches. 

          I held it on my knee for an hour.  Turning it, stroking it, admiring it – not daring to put it down in case someone sat on it or trod on it – and not wanting the boy to see the mental calculations which were chasing through my mind.  But the inevitable question came as soon as his vehicle vanished down the road. 

          “What are you going to do with it?”  My husband simply could not control his curiosity. 

          “I don’t know,” I confessed. 

          I was at a loss; not that the bowl didn’t have a use but, as permanent residents of an eight-foot wide mobile home, we had neither coffee table nor end table – and not even a cupboard eighteen inches deep. 

          “If we stood it on its side on top of the bookcase it would look nice,” I suggested. 

          “Fine,” he agreed, “but what about the rest of the stuff?” 

          “What stuff,” I asked, seeing only the immediate solution to problem number one. 

          “The stuff that’s already on top of the bookcase.  Where are you going to put the camera and flashgun?  Two bowling trophies?  The travel-clock and my binoculars?” 

          Not appreciating having cold water thrown on my suggestion so early in the game, I countered with “You tell me!” 

          I should’ve known better.  It’s a weakness of mine, walking into such trouble with both eyes open.  As soon as the words were out I knew the nature of the answer.

There’s a top shelf in that corner cupboard loaded with nothing but junk.  Why the deuce don’t you clear it out?  Then you’d have room for the stuff you’ll be taking from the top of the bookcase.”

Man’s simple solutions!  He would’ve done it quite simply, too.  Take one box, hold just below front edge of shelf, place one large hand behind contents of shelf and – Presto!  Contents of shelf transferred immediately to box and, with the same fluidity of motion, into garbage can. 

          But to me this was an undertaking of some magnitude.  Everything on that shelf had been put there with but one thought in mind, “It’s a pity to throw that out, it might come in useful some day”.  For nine years it had been my catch-all, I could not allow mere man to pass judgement on the validity of its contents.  If there was to be any relegation of anything thereon to the garbage, I would do it. 

          So, suggesting the dog need a walk, I shooed both of them outside, climbed a chair and tackled that shelf.  I started well, too.  The first thing to hand was a crumpled card to which the last ten of one hundred bobby-pins were clinging pitifully.  Down from the chair, ten pins transferred to box of curlers in bathroom, card into garbage can. 

          The next item reminded me my corn was giving trouble – a bottle of pearl buttons rescued a year ago from worn-out clothing.  Real pearl buttons, a necessary ingredient for my home-made corn cure.  I’d better get a batch ready while I have the buttons in hand.  Down from the chair – I’d also need another much smaller bottle. 

          A 50-tablet aspirin container was the answer to that and, as this shelf-cleaning was obviously going to take somewhat longer than I anticipated, I swallowed the last two tablets reasoning that prevention is better than cure.  Transferred five pearl buttons to empty aspirin bottle – now I needed one ounce of lemon juice.  Out to the fridge.  As well as the lemon juice, I discovered the chicken we planned on having for supper. 

          A short time later, lemon juice was poured over buttons, and the concoction was placed at the back of the sink to work its wonders for twenty-four hours.  By then, the buttons would be dissolved and I’d have a supply of the best corn cure not on the market. 

          Back to the original business.  Teetering precariously since I had moved the bottle, were six sheets of paper and the back of an old writing-pad.  Well, the back was no good, having been used at some time for a game of tic-tac-toe, it could go into the garbage; but six sheets of paper could be useful for day-to-day jottings – folded in four, they just fit into my handbag. 

An old sweater was next.  Ragged at the cuffs and front, the wool in the back and upper sleeves was good enough for children’s mittens.  This had been a potential filler of spare time for at least three years – perhaps I should unravel it now, thereby saving a little space, and the grandchildren would have a fair chance of new mitts next winter. 

          Part of an old sheet followed – saved for dusters, but I never could remember its whereabouts at the right moment.  Ah, well, it was still too good to throw away.  Three shirts the boys grew out of too soon – almost new, can’t destroy them.  I must remember to get them out for re-laundering later, then I can give them to the Sally Ann when we go to the city. 

          A long narrow box came into view as I tucked an errant sleeve back.  Ah! That’s where I put those Christmas candles I bought a few years ago.  No use taking them down now – just hope I can remember where they are next December. 

          A flat tin box followed.  My old treasure trove of nuts, bolts, screws of all sizes found here, there, and everywhere – but mostly in the bottom of the washing machine – and there were four the size we had been looking for to fix the towel rail in the bathroom.  I’d better do that job right now if there’s a screwdriver around. 

          Out to the toolbox in the back of the car.  Screwdriver found completely hidden beneath a set of wrenches and a pair of snow chains.  I was just tightening the last screw when the door banged to announce husband’s return. 

          “Well, have you finished?” he asked breezily. 

          “No,” I replied, scrambling on to the chair and pushing everything back on the shelf, “but I’ve stuffed the chicken and got it in the oven, made a batch of corn cure, unravelled an old sweater of yours, and fixed the towel rail in the bathroom”. 

          And that is why, in our domain, one eighteen-inch red cedar bowl is either sitting in the bath-tub or on top of the toilet seat at any given moment. 


The image at the top isn’t the actual bowl.  I do remember it… not quite as finessed, with the raw edges of the burl saved.  It was pretty.  and big.

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