In the Tall White Cabinet

There was something magical about just touching the handles on the cabinet.

“Run upstairs, it’s in the tall white cabinet”, my Mom said.

I’ve heard this phrase a thousand times in my life. At my parents house, in what is called “the junk room”, (think sewing machine, hope chest and storage room) sit two white metal cabinets, the instructions for which always started with either “the low white cabinet’, or “the tall white cabinet” and went on from there based on where the item of desire was located. My mother always knows exactly where anything and everything is located in either cabinet and can tell you precisely where to find what she needs.

I stopped. I stood and for the first time in my life and really looked at the tall white cabinet before me. I’ve opened and closed the doors on it. I can’t even guesstimate the number of times, but I’m always in a hurry to get whatever my Mom needs, and deliver it back to her quickly.

Today, I just stood there. Simple, basic white metal, silver horizontal handles. I don’t ever remember a time before these cabinets existed, I have no idea how old they truly are. As I looked it over, I noticed the tiniest little chips in the paint, marks left probably from some kid running something into it on the lower right hand side. I remember how many years I played around this thing, running my Barbie bus around the wood floors in this very room. This is where my toys were kept as a little girl. The miniature kitchen cabinet my great uncle made for Christmas one year. When I was old enough to figure out how to pull the drawers out I colored burners on the bottom of one of the drawers and put it back in upside down so I could pretend it was a stove top. Even then I loved to cook, it stayed with me. My Barbies and dolls and all their clothes custom made by my Aunt Melda, everything a little girl needed to play pretend for hours. I always wanted my Barbie to have more shoes, specifically boots, I loved Barbie’s red boots. This is probably why I am a boot freak – even today.

I played alone in this room, on the floor, for hours when I was little. I remember being pre-K and sitting in the sunshine of this room playing. Our house is over 120 years old and has towering high ceilings (even on the upper floor), light colored walls and big windows. The sun poured in to the point where even in the winter it could be hot in there. The heat was controlled downstairs and we had wood fire, hot water radiator heat. There is still nothing like wood radiator heat!

I pulled the handles of the white cabinet and the familiar “clink” of the snap closure sang in my ears. It was like yesterday I was barely tall enough to see beyond the middle shelf. I remember being little and having to tug to get the doors open on this thing. My Mom would only send me up to get something out of it if she knew it was on a shelf I could get to. Clearly, for decades this has not been an issue as the cabinet is not even 6 feet tall.

Miranda Lambert recorded a song called “the House that built me” and I’ve loved it since the first time I heard it because it takes me back home and connects me to how much of who I am in this world is because of my family, that house, and that land that raised me. There is something about home.

I scanned the shelves, noticing my Mom keeps the exactly same stuff in this tall white cabinet that she has for years; jello, spices, extra kitchen ingredients on the shelves up top and in the side panels, the signs that hung on the carriage the day she and my Dad were married 64 years ago. In front of those now stashed some of the signs we made for their 60th wedding anniversary party, some wrapping paper squares and a bag of bows. I am blessed beyond measure.

I noticed the bent metal corners of the shelves, the hooks that attach them to the walls of the cabinet, I’ve never even looked at how this thing was built. Simple, bend and fold construction, tack weld or soldered. Total utilitarian style. Functional, not pretty.

I grabbed what I needed and stopped to listen to the sound of the door clinking shut tight again. I am grossly aware there will be someday that I won’t hear these sounds anymore. The creek of the stairs, number four and six from the bottom up, will no longer be part of my family, but will always be a part of my family’s story. I want to remember on purpose. I want the sound of the latch opening and closing to be in my memory forever. I want the feel of those dark wood floors under my bare feet to be anchored in my brain for all time. The sunshine pouring in, the feel of the silver handles of the tall white cabinet are a part of me forever. Some things really should last forever. The love I feel looking through the cabinet, the good and tough times, all still there, in the touch of the metal. Somethings really do last forever, if only just inside of us.

I know this holiday season will be different and in some not so great missing family kind of ways, but I also know I hold it all in the palm of my hand. I know the feels and the feelings are all at my fingertips.

Nutmeg. I just ran upstairs to get nutmeg.

Blessings Galore, Anne

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