Why I dislike cleaning out desks

This afternoon, I set myself the task of going through a desk that I had used when we lived in New Bedford, but which has since then stood in the garage. I found stationery I had forgotten about, a brass button that had come off my blue blazer, blank checks from a bank that is now defunct, and a set of keys to my parents’ old house. For some reason now forgotten, the keys were on a key ring that originally had held the keys to a 1969 Plymouth Valiant automobile I once owned, an automobile (not that it matters) which I had purchased from a direct lineal descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The sight of the key to the porch door instantly brought back a vivid image of walking up to my parents’ house and letting myself in. This was a disturbing image because when dad sold the house after my mother’s death, the new owners tore it down; nothing from it had been salvaged but everything merely thrown away; while in its place a tawdry three-story mansionette was erected, the new building extending to the absolute limits of what the zoning regulations allowed.

This train of thought led immediately to a consideration of the vanity of human endeavor. This is why I do not like to clean out desk drawers and make them tidy: better, I think, to let some things lie unseen.

2 thoughts on “Why I dislike cleaning out desks”

  1. Dan, You brought back memories for me. I still have a set of keys for that destroyed house. There still are the seven apples trees in the back field (where the residents of the new mansion never go). One of my old neighbors recently obtained permission to care for those trees and I have promised to supply a list of the names of the varieties of apples. Including the varieties I had grafted onto the original trees I estimate there are about 15 different apples there. Things change – remember the old stone walla that show where farmers 200 years ago (with great optimism) cleared the forest and created fields which they believed would yield large crops, only to find (as I did in my back field) that the soil was too barren and rocky. The farmers left and now the Estabrook Woods once again is a forest (albeit second growth). Thoreau used to walk there and write about the farmer’s fields. I am lucky to still live in this town where people like Emerson, Thoreau, and the Alcotts lived and wrote. Dad

  2. I have a tile from the bathroom upstairs. A black tile, part of the decorative trim that complemented the aqua tile. And Abby has the corner cupboard. And many of the perennials that Mom and Dad grew. And there are photos.

    But as you say, it is disturbing to know that the house itself is gone. You can, if you like, use Bing’s map search gizmo to see a very good overhead shot of the house, and note that Dad’s Christmas trees are still there. I like looking at those once in awhile.

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