July 19, 2002
This entry marks my first foray into Random Acts of Journaling. The current passage from a book prompt comes from Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, which I’ve come to think of as “my book” since I led the discussion on it over at The Usual Suspects. (Yes, it’s been a rather lame discussion, but at least I made the effort.) So it seems like fate—I’ve been eyeing Random Acts because I like the concept and I like the journals of many of the participants, and now there’s a prompt from MY book. How could I not join in?
“What is the point of a bottom drawer?” I question Kathleen. “To save things for the future,” she says promptly.
What would I put in my bottom drawer if I had one? Kathleen’s bottom drawer was her hope chest, a place to collect linens and other household goods to be used after her wedding. I obviously don’t need that kind of drawer now. When I was in my late teens, I didn’t have a collection of things for my marriage, but I did have a pair of shoes waiting for the baby girl I’d have someday. I bought them while out shopping with my mom one day well before I was even engaged, much less married. I don’t know what possessed me. The shoes were adorable, no doubt, but I’d seen cuter things and left them in the store. Somehow those tiny white and pink slippers were irresistible, though, and they came home with me to live in a dresser drawer until I made some tiny feet on which to put them.
Except I never made any tiny feet. At the time I bought the shoes, having a baby or two was not anything I was going to do anytime soon, but was something I would probably do someday. I did the things I thought I should do before I had a baby: lived on my own after college, got married to a good guy, established myself in a career, traveled a lot, bought a house. Then the time was as right as it was ever going to get, but I didn’t long for a baby, and Mr. Karen didn’t long for a baby, and it seemed that at least one of the hypothetical baby’s parents should really want to bring it into the world, so we waited. I thought that maybe once I reached the age my mother had been when she had given birth to me that I’d feel some stirrings of maternal instinct, but that didn’t happen, either. I’m not immune to cute kids, but even if I knew I’d be lucky and produce a cute one of my own, that’s a pretty poor reason to have a baby. We never did find any good reasons for us to reproduce, so after years of on and off contemplation of the issue, we decided not to have kids. I can’t say what we would have done if I’d gotten pregnant unexpectedly; evidently that was not something God wanted to find out.
Until I started thinking about this topic, I hadn’t thought about the tiny shoes in a long time. I wasn’t even sure what had happened to them. I might have donated them in one of my periodic attempts to clear out things that no longer fit into my life. I might have held on to them, intending to give them to a future grandniece. To try and satisfy my curiosity, I headed down to the basement. I must not be as disorganized as I make out, since without too much trouble, I found the box I suspected they’d be in if I still had them, and soon they were in my hand, two little white and pink with lace and ribbon confections nestled in their original box from the Arnold Baby Shoe Company. They’re still adorable, but it’s probably time to let them go. If we do have a grandniece come into our lives, she’ll deserve a present bought or made just for her, not some dusty pair of impractical shoes.
Now, my figurative bottom drawer is all about being practical. The only thing I save for the future is money. I don’t know what my later years will bring, but I know I’ll want some cash when I get there. I got a little bit of a late start saving for retirement—I don’t know many people who didn’t—but now put aside at least 15% of my income for later. I’m fortunate to be able to do that, I know, but still I wonder if it’s enough. At the same time, I don’t want to feel deprived today in exchange for a cushier future that I might not be around to enjoy. I plan to live to be quite old, but that might not happen. I’d hate to find myself in the afterlife regretting how much money I’d dedicated to my tax-deferred accounts. I want to collect experiences now, not wait until my hoped for golden years. I’m sure I will never run out of things to do, no matter how long I live, so there’s no need to save projects for later. I’m hoping that there will be many new, cool things to do when I’m old. Maybe I’ll get to take that vacation on the moon someday, just like the futurists predicted back when I was a baby in my own cute shoes.