I discovered this cabinet decades ago, while climbing through our garage, searching for supplies or inspiration for who knows what kind of project I had cooked up in my young noggin. Our garage was largely Dad’s domain, wherein he kept projects of every tense; present works, past ideas, and supplies or inspiration for all manner of future possibilities. This exhaustive inclusion of projects begun, items in process, and “ya never know” supplies reinforced my perception of Dad as a Creator of Anything He Wanted To Make and reinforced my mom’s perception that one key to her happy marriage was to avert her eyes and mind from our VERY full garage.
I recall picking my way through the makers lab that was our garage when I suddenly realized that the tall stack of items walling me in on one side was not in fact a stack, but a piece of furniture. For whatever reason, I had never noticed it before that moment. I remember looking the cabinet up and down, taking in the grid of drawers and becoming instantly and intensely curious about this enchanting thing that had suddenly presented itself in my life. My heart started pounding as I surveyed the breadth and height of this many-drawered wonder and I considered investigating it right then and there, WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION. The all caps may lead you to believe that my parents were permission-requiring tyrants. They were not. I arrived in their lives with an unfounded double dose of fear, angst, and teeth. Because it was the 1970’s, I was accurately labeled “painfully shy” and my accepting parents lovingly ushered me through my ennui-soaked childhood and orthodontia with shaking heads and an assumption that I would Grow Out of It. I did.
So, with my pounding heart, my thick glasses pushed up hard on my nose, and an uncharacteristic boldness, I started in on the drawers. I felt downright reckless! It seemed each drawer was a world unto itself, and while the rest of my Dad’s garage was a tumble of overflowing boxes, piles, stacks, and countless tools, each drawer of the cabinet was organized and singularly themed. One drawer revealed carving and stamping tools alongside strips of earthy, slightly sweet-smelling leather. The next, which I could barely heave open, held a rock polisher and boxes of dull gray and brown rocks which sat silent next to their neighbor boxes full of singing, dazzling copper, green, blue and shiny black stones. One drawer gave me a start as it appeared to contain a small pharmacy’s worth of tiny, liquid-filled bottles which rattled just loudly enough to cause worry about breakage as I haltingly pulled their stiff drawer home open. Upon further investigation, I found that each mysterious-looking vial held a different tint for the purpose of hand-coloring photographs.
As I continued to pull drawer after drawer open, my young brain exploded. Paint brushes of every size! Tiny metal tools! Huge metal tools! Chunks of glossy, impossibly heavy steel! Sandpaper in every size, hue and grit! Lightbulbs! Charcoal pencils and sketch books! A bunch of cord thingies! Wax forms! It appeared that my estimation of my dad was an UNDERestimation! The man not only COULD make anything, he DID make EVERYTHING! My small brain was reeling…apparently, as proven by this other-worldly chest that was hiding in plain sight, the world was full of making possibilities so far beyond what I had yet known! In one huge rush of childish revelation, this cabinet-o-many drawers became the icon of what it means to live a creative life. It was as if my fuzzy notions about making things was suddenly crystal clear and was being applauded by these tidy, magical drawers. It felt like they were announcing, portal to Narnia style: “Yes Junebug, you CAN make whatever you want…and oh child, there is so much more to make than you have imagined! The world is full of possibilities!”
After I had explored as many of the drawers as I could muscle open, I gathered myself together and went back inside our house. As was my painfully shy style, I uttered ne’ery a word to my family about the sky-opening artistic epiphany I had just experienced on the other side of the garage door.
Several years later, I did tell my parents about this experience and with their usual gracious acceptance and delight toward their weird little offspring, they listened and laughed. Dad promised he’d keep the cabinet for me (it was originally in his dad’s photo studio) and last month, he cleaned it all out and sent it to me, to fill and use and be inspired by as I aim to respond to and revel in the ever beckoning call of creativity.
Thanks, Mom and Dad!