The drawer on the top left was for her checkbooks, the large three to a page variety with black binders. Below that was a drawer fitted for paper, typing paper and carbon paper and letterhead, both her personal and business. The bottom drawer held envelopes, letter and personal size and the blue ones that she took with her to church every Sunday morning. To her right was the drop down front with the slide that popped up and out, which held her blue typewriter, and which scared me when it snapped into place. On top was the faux antique phone, a desk pad, a calculator and a small pyramid she bought somewhere in Asia which, in theory, was to give the time when tapped on top. But the time, although spoken in English, was so heavily accented that you couldn't understand a word said. She loved to set it off, lean in, and then roll back laughing, "the things I spend money on!". The middle drawer was for pens, my favorite being the clicky green ballpoint from her bank, a roll of US flag stamps, lick required, in the clear plastic stamp roll, liquid paper and piles and piles of address labels, most received in the mail from various organizations, all of whom she reimbursed for their kindness with a check, yellow safety paper, from the big black binder.
In the evening, after dinner, while my grandfather cleaned the kitchen and vacuumed the floor (which he did every night) Mimi would frequently retreat to her office, the red room, where she would spend hours, or what seemed like hours to me, balancing the company checkbooks. When she was off by a penny, which was not often, she'd wander the house, muttering constantly, deeply frustrated at the imbalance. While she worked I would sit on the day bed and look at the albums of family photographs she had created, black pages in maroon binders, her writing in white script. Occasionally she would move to the table, the same one we used for card playing on Sunday nights, allowing me to spend my time working away on the typewriter, writing story after story, none of which remain today.
The desk was organized and predictable, as were my evenings at their house. Lawrence Welk on television in the family room, Mimi in the kitchen making dinner, cocktails at 5:00, dinner usually at 7:00, as my grandfather frequently appeared just before, to catch the final round of Wheel of Fortune, and my grandmother always got the puzzle, in record time. Each time she beat Patricia from Cleveland, or Ralph from Orlando, my grandfather would rub his chin, look at me and say, "she's amazing, isn't she? We've got to get her on there, don't we?", and she would wave her hand horizontally, shrug him off, and return to the final plating of the fried fish and peppery potatoes with lima beans, as I was frequently a dinner guest on Fridays.
In that desk I knew I could find paper and stamps and pens that had ink. There was never a scramble for a sharpened pencil to finish my homework, never a letter left unmailed for lack of a stamp. For years it's been with me, moving at least 10 times, but we now have no room for Mimi's old desk. Our small space is no longer able to accommodate two adults, two children, a beagle and a huge old office desk. It needs a good home, one that will appreciate the old tape marks on the pull out to the left where she taped phone numbers, including the Hall's bridal registry direct line. One that will know the secret of the drawers, which one must be extended to free the others. It's well worn and loved and on it's way to Philadelphia, to my cousin, who happily offered it a new home.
And it's old home is now a bright blue playroom, full of crayons and paper and sharpened pencils. The perfect place for Mimi's great granddaughters to find comfort and order and silliness, just what I needed so long ago, just what she would want now.