As the children grew I learned that they have drawers in their spaces like my top drawer and my purse. I taught them NOT to go into my purse or anyone’s purse. It was just unacceptable to violate certain privacy boundaries.
A woman’s purse contains all her vital necessities and secret codes. A woman’s top drawer contains all her private life, including her beauty secrets, old letters, stash of emergency cash, and keys to other places, like safe deposit boxes and such. That is where she keeps the drawing her child makes for her for Mother’s Day when he is three.
At first, the children’s drawers contain stones. Yes, and gum from yesterday. The toenail of a newt–things like that. Later they contain bits of money, secret passwords to forts, the knife you said they couldn’t have, spent bullet casings, mascara, pencilled notes on lined foolscap paper folded into the smallest of squares. And still later, phone numbers, naughty books, and maybe even something more shocking.
A parent learns that if you rummage in your child’s drawer, he will change its location. It might even move to a neighbor’s house where you don’t get to go! I know this because when I was a child, I had to find “other locations” for my stashes of secrets, usually somewhere in the woods in a hole covered by natural organic matter of one kind or another. And, yes, tucked into the place where my closet shelf rested on the wood strip supporting it. I remember a piece of paper that I had typed into every available space “I love Jud” on my mother’s L.C.Smith black typewriter.
This looks exactly like my mother’s machine, even to the worn places on the frame. I think it IS my mother’s. Who took this picture? I want the machine!!! (I can see that this one doesn’t have a ribbon in—I can remember exactly how the ribbon smelled on my mother’s machine. And how those hammers used to stick if they flew too quickly in succession up to the ribbon. And that I bought blank caps to put on those keys so I would learn how to touch-type. One of the best things I ever taught myself!)
Today I am inhabiting a virtual world, and will again tomorrow, where my 40-something son lives. Like his bedroom used to be, his facebook page moves along with a cast of characters ranging from old friends to new, from people who figure in his day to day world to people who are only loosely connected. He puts news of my grandchildren there as well as admitting witnesses to his youthful adventures – witnesses who know things his mother did not get to know!
As it was years ago, I do not go into his top drawer. He invited me to his “room” (which is a huge privilege and compliment to me), and to exposure to his rather wide cast of characters from his life. There are some from passages that he has not shared with me. I leave those people in the drawer – most of them have names I don’t know. It isn’t as if EVERYONE in his drawer has secrets. It’s that SOMEONE might, and I will not peek in to see!
What I am learning about not going into other’s private hiding places is that if you are supposed to be brought in on the secret, it happens eventually, and in its perfect time!
NOTE: It was always clear that if I thought it was a life-threatening matter to know what was in the drawer, I would make an overt raid in the presence of the child. This was not done except on the most rare occasions – (countable on maybe one or two fingers of one hand?) , when it had to do with something that was certainly a lie or associated with controlled substances.
Mention was recently made on the Facebook page of a nasty accident that years ago, cost blood, stitches, insurance, angst and agony, guilt and money, worry and turmoil of all sorts and kinds. It was my son who alluded to this teen-age event–a classmate’s Party-While-Parents-Are-On-Vacation ended up with an accident that had the 16 or 17 year old “hostess” calling me one evening saying “I think you better come. The aid car is coming.” I arrived to see my son lying on the road in a sheet of blood, and saying, before sort of passing out, “Hi, Mom” and making some cryptic comment.
So this young woman piped up remembering that event on my son’s facebook site, and I got to “see into his drawer” . I was able to contact that young woman (of course she also is 40 something now) and thank her for bravely calling me in spite of the dreadful situation she found herself in—house party discovered, friend badly injured , aid car on the way—and saying those tremulous words. It was wonderfully good to “speak” to this young woman whom I never would have hoped to hear from again. We got the chance to say the words that wrap up such past traumas.
Well, today another thing happened on Facebook: I got an introduction to one of my son’s old college roommates! I even got away with saying “tsk” at him for using a bleep-able word! And that’s when I got the introduction. It’s so nice when children grow up to be adults. Fine ones!