I had just moved into the second of the three rooms assigned to me during my tenure at Muleshoe High School. As I remember it, and that is using the term loosely as it has been a few years, it was a work day and my work was caught up, so I decided to clean out and rearrange my desk, This blocky old desk looked like it had been there forever, the traditional teacher’s desk made of wood stained a light blond color and was built hell for stout, as my daddy would have said.
I started with the shallow center drawer, the one that catches all the pencils, paper clips, and little stuff that start out in their own neat little compartments or boxes and wind up mixed in with everything else and tangled up in the rubber bands and dust bunnies that should have been thrown away a long time ago.
That drawer done, I moved to the stacks of drawers on either side of the desk, throwing away left-over files of the previous occupant and confidently arranging my files that I was sure I would refer to often and which then gathered dust just like the ones before them. All the things I really used wound up on the desktop in sometimes less than orderly piles.
I was down to the bottom drawer on the left-hand side and had just emptied it of the notebooks, loose scrap paper, and years of accumulated flotsam wadded in the corners when I came upon one of those shiny metal buttons with a pin on the back. I turned it over and read the caption, I LOVE P- - - - .
Really? In a teacher’s desk? I was taken aback! I couldn’t help but smile. How long had this button hidden, nestled there quietly until today? And what teacher took it off of which kid? And why wasn’t it on file in the principal’s office or somewhere as evidence of a student’s wrongdoing? Or thrown away before it landed in the wrong hands-again? Or was it the teacher’s to begin with? Aha! Now, that may be the real story. I think I remember which teacher had this room and therefore this desk before me, but that teacher could have inherited the desk with its hidden missive just like I did. But surely she would have discovered it when she took over possession of the desk, just like I did. Or maybe not.
Well, since the button had survived this long, it just didn’t seem right to toss it and end the mystery, so considering I have sort of a perverse sense of humor anyway, I tucked it into my jacket pocket without a clue as to what I would wind up doing with it and went on about my business.
Time passed. The button was sort of forgotten as it resided in its new secret place. I would wear the jacket from time to time and eventually my hand would come across the button quietly waiting to be rediscovered and marveled at. I would touch it and smile at the memory of the day it surprised me, drop it back into the pocket, and continue on.
The evening came when I wore the jacket to a holiday Christmas affair, the annual Dress Red party given by a group of women in the community. The hostesses would gather our coats as we entered and store them on a bed in the bedroom until we were ready to leave. When the time came for me to depart, I went in to retrieve my jacket, gathered it up and said my goodbyes as I walked out the door. By the time I made it to the car I realized I had someone else’s jacket. This jacket was made very much like mine, but this one didn’t have the telltale button in the pocket!
Back in I rushed to frantically go through the pile of coats to find mine, and thank goodness no one had made the same mistake I had and taken mine instead of her own.
But if someone had, I would have loved to seen the expression on that woman’s face when she discovered the mystery button.
And then would she ever had admitted to me that she saw the button when we exchanged jackets?
Ah, the stories that little button could tell!
You know, I’d better go check and make sure it is still safe and waiting for its next adventure.