The prompt: Think back to the closet of your youth, and write an essay about what was inside. Let the contents of the closet become a metaphor for who you were as a child, who you might have wished to be, and who you have become.*
While there may have been a monster in my closet when I was a child, I was convinced the creepster preferred to lurk under the bed. After all, the closet had a light in it, as well as a retired Doo-Tee Duck potty-training seat high on a shelf. That Duck saw me through a lot of tough and tender moments, you know? So the closet didn’t scare me. On days when my mom insisted I clean out that space, it was like sitting in a time machine, a 3’x5’x14’ time machine, one metal rack on either side, white-contact-paper-lined shelves above those, and a ball-chain pull for the single bulb above the door. No matter how much “cleaning” there was to do, it always took me the whole day, because I’d keep finding things I’d forgotten about: One of my white leather baby boots, inside of which lived a Mexican peso and the key to who remembers what; a collection of tissue-wrapped miniature ceramic animals; the sterilised Doo-Tee Duck; a cream-colored wool-fringed neckerchief embroidered with roses; an old perfume bottle of my mother’s; a stuffed polar bear with a key in its back. When you turned the key, the bear inexplicably played “Beautiful Beautiful Copenhagen.” Everything had a story that, like the objects themselves, deserved to be recognized … perhaps buffed a little.
If I were to think back to the closet of my youth, letting its contents become a metaphor for who I have become, then I would be a mother-scented, Danish man-eater with Bohemian flare and a Pavlovian No. 2 response to sitting on waterfowl. OK, maybe, everything but the Danish part. There’s more to me than that, however. I also really like the smell of asphalt when it rains, and the color of the ocean. I’d like to enjoy eating pitted olives. They’re so tempting, so easy to pop into your mouth, to savor their juices. But they taste bad. What in that closet could have predicted such a dilemma?
*Prompt from Poets & Writers “The Time Is Now.”