Tings A-Koo-Moo-A-Late

We moved into our current house three years ago, and I exulted in our abundant storage space and expansive counter tops, particularly the kitchen which featured a large island.  In our previous house I had railed against the piles of clutter that clogged every available flat surface – I had thought a possible solution was sloping counters such that everything would roll off, forcing household members to put away or otherwise dispose of clutter.  Despite all sorts of empty drawers waiting to be filled with a “disorderly assemblage” (the dictionary.com definition of clutter), the new counter tops simply exacerbated the problem by attracting even larger volumes of clutter that could loiter around for days.  Both Nick and I have home offices, and though I am mostly a solo act, Nick does have clients that stop by time to time.  To get to his office above the garage they have to walk through the kitchen and mudroom, which my mother always referred to as clutter-prone “tension zones.”  So Nick might call out, “Client arriving in an hour,” and together we would get into our counter attack positions and try and render all flat surfaces visible once again.  This generally involves indiscriminately sweeping all the gradoux of the previous week into an empty drawer.

This reminded me of the “tings akoo-moo-late ” drawer in my parent’s household, coined by a wonderful Belgian cleaning lady who used to bring me ceramic figurines and make diminutive cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off.  She knew that the cleaning lady was the obvious scapegoat for anything that went missing, so she simply put every “ting” into one “akoo-moo-late” drawer in the kitchen.  I wallow in jealous awe when I enter a house with immaculate counter tops and no clutter in sight.  I don’t consider myself a slob but it seems to takes almost heroic daily efforts to achieve the immaculate counter top.  I feel certain that all these households must have cavernous akoo-moo-late drawers someplace. 

Occasionally when I am in a new household I like to take a discrete peek into the fridge to get a quick insight into the guts of a family.  For example, you could discover that the family was a Miracle Whip family instead of a real mayo family, or that they had some sort of odd food fetish, such as scads of different jars of olives, or that even the tiniest scrap of food was saved in color coded Tupperware containers.  I think that a peek into the akoo-moo-late drawer might be just as enlightening.  For years there was a fake throw up and whoopee cushion in our drawer, which gives you some insight on the general tenor of the humor in our household. 

Once things drifted into the drawer they seemed to acquire a life of their own and were never thrown out.  For example, a dented ping pong ball simply cannot be resuscitated and by any reckoning has outlived its usefulness.  Basic household etiquette would demand that you pick up the ball, rotate about 180 degrees and deposit it in the garbage can behind you, but in our household this would never happen.  Perhaps we secretly wanted to retaliate by inflicting the same initial heady rush of joy at finding the ball followed by swift disappointment at spotting the flaw and cancelling the ping pong game.  If directly asked why the ball wasn’t thrown away, we could simply say, “Oh I thought someone was saving it for something, like for an art project.”  But basically, I think that throwing anything out would violate the unspoken sanctuary of the akoo-moo-late drawer.  Other items in the drawer might have included:  

  • A deck of 47 cards
  • A pair of scissors, which would be a real find, except that they were left-handed scissors that only my mother could use
  • One shoelace with no mate
  • A locked padlock with no combination in sight
  • A variety of batteries, many of which could be dead but who knew?
  • Birthday candles, but some would be broken
  • A mechanical pencil with no lead

There were other things that rightfully should have been there, but weren’t.  The akoo-moo-late drawer was the only place you could have any hope of finding the pin to inflate the basketball on a Sunday when all the stores were closed, but typically when you needed something it wouldn’t be there.  The same thing went for scotch tape, band-aids and non-dried up markers.  Extension cords should also have been in the drawer, but if you struck out there, you could always pirate one from one of the lamps in the living room, with resultant downstream cursing and gnashing of teeth as night fell.  Scissors were always elusive and it was with a heavy heart that you had to resort to using the left-handed scissors.  The one thing that I will say about those scissors is that provided one of my first insights into agony of discrimination.

The car served as a moveable akoo-moo-late zone.  Once I came to an abrupt stop and three different kinds of balls rolled into the front seat from God know where, one dangerously wedging itself under the accelerator.  One of the balls was a golf ball, which was particularly perplexing since nobody in our family played golf.  My first car in the 1970s was a green Volvo, and it didn’t get cleaned out until 1979, when I won a bet and my brother Tony was assigned the job of auto archeologist.  I kept his inventory of artifacts, which included: 

  • An unmailed thank you note to Uncle Fay and Aunt Lootie
  • A newspaper clipping about the death of a white rhino in a zoo
  • One Frito, good condition
  • An unpaid parking ticket
  • A Cook County dog rabies tag from 1978, odd since I have never had a dog, and certainly not in Cook County
  • A pin to inflate a basketball

I have always considered the car a private place, and thus have minimal compulsion to clean it out, particularly given the spirit of akoo-moo-late sanctuary.  However, occasionally someone will ask for a ride.  Recently, I drove to a local business meeting where I was meeting some out-of-town clients.  Unexpectedly my car was commandeered for transportation to the restaurant for dinner.  As everyone piled in, I realized that the back of the car was littered with fertilizer left over from a weekend project.  Everyone was a good sport, but I did wonder if fertilizer detracted from their business perception of me as a top flight consultant.

Sadly, several years ago, the “tings akoo-moo-late” drawer disappeared from my parents’ house.  At its peak, this house was rollicking with 6 children and various house guests – the akoo-moo-late drawer was thriving.  But some 40 years later, the household has winnowed down to just my father and his caretakers, and in some sort of fit of reorganization the contents of the drawer were finally thrown away.  So after over 50 years of loyal service the whoopee cushion, fake puke and dented ping pong balls met their final demise.  Recently, I inspected the akoo-moo-late situation in our house, which is now spread over several drawers.  I was gratified to see that I have the same array of items, but perhaps in an effort to redress some of the frustrations of my childhood, my drawers seem to be better stocked.  There are several decks of cards, such that there is a very good chance that one complete deck can always be cobbled together.  There appears to be a life time supply of dice.  I found a ping pong ball that treads the fine line between blemished and dented, but a few test bounces on the counter suggests that it is very useable.  There are several extension cords and an intact set of birthday candles.  But there is also:

  • A sheet of paper listing numbers that look like a combination to a bicycle lock, but no lock.
  • A rubber chicken that when squeezed, exudes some sort of egg from its butt in a gelatinous capsule.
  • A novelty plastic kitchen item, intact, that appears to make curly cue French fries – But since the directions are in Italian it has never been used, but certainly won’t be thrown away (regifting is possible).
  • A wedge-shaped token that looks like it comes from a Trivial Pursuit game.
  • An indescribable squishy plastic thing that might be related to a computer, so I wouldn’t dare throw it away.

Huzzah! The spirit of Akoo-Moo-Late lives on! 

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (like post, stop, spot) and the number of aasterisks indication the number of letters.  One of the words will rhyme with either the preceding or following line.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers. 

For years tidiness has —— with clutter over the battlefield of counter tops, 

But “disorganized assemblage” is a stubborn foe who never sleeps or stops. 

The only solution is to designate a “things accumulate ——” that you can always use

 To keep those weird do-hickeys and knick knacks that you are afraid to lose.

Here’s where the whoopee cushion and fake throw up can be eternally stored

Plus enjoying this fascinating collection of family flotsam is an additional ******.






Answers;  warred, reward, drawer

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