I’m eight years old, and Brittany is six. Every Saturday since we can remember we spend the night over at Grandma and Poppy’s house—just down the street on Grover’s, on the west side of Tatum Boulevard. Every Saturday we spend the night over at Grandma and Poppy’s. There’s a spare bedroom just for us at the end of the long, narrow, dark hallway of the small, one-story house down Grover’s, on the west side of Tatum. Our room is next to the garage door. Across the hall from Poppy’s den. Wonderful things happen in Poppy’s den. He works in there for hours and hours, building model trains and cars. He takes us to the Hobby Bench to pick out his next project with him. He limps, a bad hip. He talks unusually loud, his voice booming and almost startling. Grandma back-hand slaps him on the shoulder, and screeches, Arnie, turn up your hearing aid! Poppy’s eyes open wide and he shrugs his shoulders, implying, what can I do? He’s mostly deaf. Since World War Two. World War Two—Poppy a lone veteran. Ear drums blown out from the all-too-nearby blast of hand grenades. Ka-plow-ee! Off in the jungles of the Pacific. Island hopping. Hand grenades blasted and my poppy’s ear drums go ka-plow-ee.
He brings back a small sack of precious stones, gems, pearl-like beauties from his island hopping during World War Two. I wonder my whole life where they are today, and how he got them. A historical mystery of sorts. We check out from the Hobby Bench with a new project.
Our room is down the hall, next to the garage door, across from Poppy’s den. We have a pull-out couch for a bed. We have a small walk-in closet full of random and incomplete toy sets, misplaced children’s books, and clashed items of clothing like an off-white and maroon ski jacket on a hanger next to a pair of bathing suit bottoms, draped over the corner of a coat hanger—tilted sideways from the imbalance. Where’s the matching bathing suit top? It must be somewhere in here, perhaps over near the shoebox with no lid, holding a pair of my dad’s old business loafers, wrestled in closet dust and placed rather queerly in the rectangle cardboard—one shoe lay sideways while the other shoe lay similarly pointed in the same direction yet completely upside down. This is what I love about this small walk-in closet that is really no one’s walk-in closet in particular, just a walk-in closet that so happens to be in the spare bedroom that is kind of my sister and mine’s room that we sleep in every Saturday, across the hallway from my poppy’s den and next to the garage door. I sit squarely on the floor in this small walk-in closet full of random and incomplete toy sets, misplaced children’s books, and clashed items of clothing—but actually I do not really sit squarely but queerly like the pair of dusty loafers in a rectangle cardboard box with no lid. I sit queerly since my pigeon-toed legs demand I do so. I close the closet door and sit on the floor alone tinkering through the trinkets and missing board game pieces and missing bathing suit tops. Immersed in an absent presence, combing through what’s not there, curious and careful as I peruse and ponder. Might I install a sense of order to these knick knacks? I pick through one by one, flipping through an old hardback children’s book with pages torn and corners bitten off. This is what I love about this small walk-in closet. Full of random and incomplete toy sets, misplaced children’s books, and clashed items of clothing—these missing pieces, absent presents: refuse categorization. Resist organization. I’m enthralled by the unruliness and I embrace the unknown of the bathing suit top, the cropped book pages, the dusty loafers facing all directions wrong.
There is a light wrap at the door and it’s my sister’s six-year-old voice asking me to come out of the closet and observe as my poppy puts the finishing touches on his latest model car.