At a meeting the other night, I reached into my pants pocket for my tissue. One by one, I removed the contents of the pocket, looked at them, and put them back.
Three $1 bills, crumpled in little origami wads from days of transfer from one pair of slacks to the next a bank account on legs. I didn’t have to count them; I don’t spend money so fast that I lose track of the little bit I have.
Forty-two cents. The silver was change from the last time I bought a cup of coffee from the machine at work. The pennies were old friends, tough to get rid of because nobody takes copper anymore. I’ll probably still have them when you read this.
A slip of paper scribbled with the word “meeting” to jump-start my memory in case I forgot where I was supposed to go that evening instead of straight home.
A stick of gum, sugar-free.
A thick rubber band. Purple, which told me it probably had come off a bundle of asparagus or broccoli and had been seen as too useful to toss out at suppertime a night, or two, before.
Finally, my fingers found the tissue, cut it from the herd of possessions and put it to use.
As my fingers had searched, I thought of all the things I carry around (add in my keys in the other pocket, a pen in my shirt). Did I really need all that stuff in my pockets? Probably not, but where else would I carry it?
A guy needs stuff, and I realized that my adult pockets were no match for those of my childhood. On any given day at Naomi Elementary, my jeans were guaranteed to hold a treasure trove of toys, weapons and oddities.
Every boy carried a pocketknife. We would toss the opened blade in a spirited game of mumbletypeg or carve our initials in the trees just past the school playground. A knife was an article of barter, and sometimes it was simply something to show off.
Nowadays, of course, a knife will get you a free trip to the principal’s office and beyond, but the boys at our country school had too much sense to misuse ours. Whenever we fought (and we did), the unwritten playground constitution mandated fists; other weapons stayed pocketed.
Anyway, we had grown up around axes, scythes, hatchets, picks, mowing machines, plows, disk harrows, awls, pitchforks, barbed wire, machetes, bayonets, straight razors, table saws, drills, augers, ice picks, chisels, hunting knives, arrows, meat cleavers, and braces and bits. We knew what a sharp point or edge would do to tender flesh.
We weren’t just warriors; we also were artists, so in with the knife might be a length of string, just long enough for little fingers to manipulate into a cat’s cradle, cup and saucer, crow’s feet or Jacob’s ladder.
Marbles were a major recreation, so we carried favorites in a pouch in our pocket. Transparent or opaque, glass or steel, these colorful spheres were won and lost in a circle drawn in the dirt with a stick.
Exquisite specimens were legal tender for playground transactions. Do kids today even know what marbles are?
On good days I had a magnet. Not the red horseshoe found in textbooks, but little cylinders taken from some electrical device. When nothing metallic was nearby, we would sit in the dirt and pick up iron-laden pebbles.
Unusual stones made their way to our pockets. There was nothing like a piece of transparent quartz to amaze classmates. Now and then we would come in possession of a buckeye, which looked like a chestnut. They were supposed to bring good luck, but I never found that to be true.
In spring we toted baseball cards. They weren’t valuable collectors’ items back then, just quick references listing a player’s statistics or showing his preferred glove. They slipped naturally into our back pockets, while all those other items, and plenty more, were in our front pockets, ready for action.
What’s in your pocket?
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column distributed by Morris News Service.
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