For the last half hour I have been looking for the dog brush. It should be in the back room, right next to the shoe polish and the car wax. Alas, I think someone else may have used it to brush the cat hair from the mats. I do wish people would put things back where they find them.
Put it back where you found it.... During my growing up years, this sentence was repeated and repeated by my father. Sometimes, it was said as a reminder, sometimes as a request, sometimes as a direct command. "Oh, sure," I would answer. "Yeah, right. Okay."
Like most kids, sometimes I remembered and sometimes I forgot. If I was in his workshop, nailing something together, I would usually have to be told to put the can of nails away, put the hammer back on the hook, and hang the saw on the wall, where I found it. "Then, you will know right where it is," Dad would say. "It will be there when you need it."
If I was about to leave the Star Weekly on the floor where I was reading, Dad would have to remind me. If I left the milk on the cupboard, I would have to be told. One time I was pitching hay into the horses' manger, and instead of standing the fork back beside the ladder where it always stood, I dropped it on the barn floor and went off to play. Only a few minutes later Dad happened to walk across the barn floor on his way to feed the pigs. He stepped on the tines of the fork, and the handle flew up and smacked him in the face. When he roared, "Who left that #@*%$* fork on the barn floor?' I admitted nothing. I felt really bad about it but, weasel that I was, I stayed out of sight to give him a chance to cool down. Much later that evening I sidled up to apologize.
Put it back where you found it. I used to get so tired of hearing that. When I took a book out of the shelves in the living room, and left it in the bathroom, he told me. If the sewing basket was left on the chair, he would say it.
In time Father's perseverance paid off. Putting it back where I found it became automatic. It was easier to return whatever it was, than to have to hear him tell me for the nth time to "put it back."
When he was in his 80s and 90s, he took over the job of washing dishes. Like most people of that age, he had developed a few idiosyncrasies. For instance, he had a special place for every knife, fork, cup and saucer, and pots and pans were stacked in a certain order under the counter. On the inside of the cupboard door, below the sink, he had placed four hooks. On the first hook went the dish mop, on the second hook, the bottle brush, on the third hook, the Curly-Kate, and on the fourth, a sink cloth. If someone happened to rinse out a few dishes while cooking, and put the Curly-Kate on the first hook, you would later hear him grumbling, "Nobody around here can ever seem to put something back where they found it." To keep peace, I made an extra effort to put the right thing on the right hook, in the order he had set out.
The other day it occurred to me that I am doing the same darn thing. In my own home, I usually have a specific place for things. And it really is aggravating to have to waste time looking for something that isn't where it is supposed to be. Recently, I caught myself reversing the order of the plates and saucers after some of my summer company had been kind enough to do the dishes for me. And another time, after hunting for the spatula for twenty minutes, which usually is on a hook beside the stove, I found it in the knife drawer. With my bifocals I couldn't see the black handle in the drawer and I had passed over it several times. I just didn't recognize it because it wasn't where I expected it to be.
Well time goes on. It has been 27 years since Dad died and Mom's been gone for 25. Grief, with time, passes but there are moments when I am almost overwhelmed with missing them.
While mowing the lawn at the home place the other day, I had a sudden yearning for things to be the way they used to be. I could imagine all of us, the whole family sitting down to a table, laden with ham, potato scallop, new peas, and tomatoes, waiting while Mother, using her apron as a pot holder, pulled a pan of biscuits out of the oven, and slid them onto a platter. Usually we would all be talking at once, and suddenly from the head of the table, Dad would nod at us to be quiet, while Mother said Grace. Then we'd all dig in.
It was just an ordinary supper with an ordinary family at an ordinary farmhouse. But all afternoon, as I mowed that lawn, I kept that picture in my mind. Oh, if only once more for a little while I could put everything back the way I found it.
I'm so grateful for the memories.