When I worked at Crate and Barrel, there were many slow Tuesday afternoons when my manager, trying to keep the natives from becoming restless, would assign us tedious housekeeping tasks. Sometimes these chores involved scraping reluctant price tags off the bottom of china plates with a box cutter and a bottle of Goo Gone. But I spent most of those slow afternoons taking all the wine glasses off an upright, Windexing off the glass shelves, Windexing off each glass, and reassembling the glasses in a perfect grid pattern. Eight by three.
(And yes, that’s right. Windexing off the glasses. Wash your stemware after purchase, people!)
Those afternoons I would often experience a pang of envy while I watched the designers — those enviable employees with salaries and permission to wear jeans — configure a window display. There’s something soothing about the spotless and romanticized interiors imagined in the windows of housewares stores: a butcher block kitchen island accessorized with ceramic mixing bowls in lemon yellow, a matching dishtowel, a box of overpriced pancake mix, and a wooden spoon so pristine that it has obviously never met batter. Oh, and a bud vase with a single daisy. Don’t you always mix in the butter and eggs next to a floral arrangement?
I thought of that bud vase this afternoon while I was dusting the apartment. Both because I have a lot of Crate and Barrel merchandise (discount!) and because moving around the objects of my everyday life made it clear how you can’t fake the human factor. Sure, the designers may add a stray wisp of flour to that kitchen display, but those scenes are crafted to allow passerby to project themselves into that kitchen, making those pancakes. No personalization allowed, lest that unique detail alienate a potential customer.
Our own spaces, of course, are much different, full of objects that act like fingerprints. There’s no faster way to get to know a person than to paw through her stuff. (This is why, perhaps, party guests are notorious for peeking inside medicine cabinets.) So, in an effort to give my dedicated readers a glimpse into the Life of Carrots — and to illustrate once again the narcissism of blogging — I thought I’d narrate a few objects from the top of my dresser, home of many Carrots-specific objects. Ready? Let’s go!
A wooden jewelry box with six painted ceramic drawers. This was a birthday gift from Danny the summer he was stationed in Baghdad. I had mentioned during a shopping trip when he was States-side that I liked it, and he wrote my dad and asked him to buy it for me in his absence. In each drawer, I found a gift card to one of my favorite stores. I love this jewelry box — it’s one of my favorite possessions — but, like all objects I associate with Danny’s deployment, I feel a small elevator-drop of panic in the pit of my stomach when I look at it. This still happens, even though it’s been years since his return.
On top of the jewelry boxes, the necklaces I often wear when I decide to wear jewelry. A small diamond pendant and a chunky, engraved silver locket. Both used to belong to my mother. An art-deco gold pendant with the merest chip of a diamond in the center of a black enamel circle, which used to belong to my grandmother on my mom’s side. I didn’t know her well, and when she passed away and I received that necklace in its watered-silk jewelry case, I felt simultaneously a little guilty and a little proud that she had left me something beautiful. A sterling silver key pendant from Handpicked in Charlotte, purchased when Sandy was visiting.
On one side of the dresser, two framed photographs. On the left, in the smaller frame, my mom and dad running down the aisle after their wedding. Everyone says I look like my mother. Looking at my dad’s face in this photograph makes me realize how much I look like him, too. His eyes get squinty when he smiles, like mine. My mom is wearing a serious veil, and I love it. Next to that photo, a photograph of me and Danny in the foyer of Byron’s before our wedding reception.
Underneath a different jewelry box, two small pieces of paper. The first, a card from a flower arrangement my dad sent to my mom when I was born: “Patience will out! She’s beautiful. All my love, Mike.” I want to frame it, but I can’t decide if that’s ridiculous or not. In the meantime, I keep it flattened and safe from Echo, who likes to destroy anything paper. Underneath it, a ticket stub from a concert Danny and I attended last summer at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion: Sting and the London Philharmonic. I learned at that concert that “End of the Day” is my second favorite Sting song, after “Why Should I Cry for You,” which kind of makes me lose it. And Heather! “End of the Day” is about fox hunting!
So no medicine cabinets. I promise, mine isn’t very exciting. What’s on your dresser, Carrots readers?