What sparked this off was a picture of a baby I found in the bottom drawer of a weird cupboard thingy I bought on impulse in a charity shop. It – the cupboard, not the baby – is about the size of a grandfather clock with shelves and spaces in an eccentric configuration. The man in the shop didn’t know how to describe it on the invoice so he just called it Wooden Thing, or somesuch. I rather like it. I can see it in my new kitchen, assuming all goes well with the house move. I am using it to keep my multi-cat-household-stuff all together in one place – bowls, brushes, a variety of probably-out-of-date half-finished medicines, a collection of cut up cereal boxes for scraping up those darling little piles of this-and-that first thing in the morning…
Anyway, I thought I’d thoroughly explored all those weirdly-arranged drawers, but I missed something. Today, in the very bottom one I found an odd-shaped block of poor-quality wood – an offcut maybe – and a polaroid photograph of a baby.
To the unpractised eye he looks much like any other baby. Sort of spherical; rather red; not entirely bald; correct number of fingers on each hand. He’s wearing a rather charming stripy blue and white bottom-half and a matching blue fleecy top, with a hood, and he’s fast asleep in the corner of what looks like an armchair or old sofa wearing a faint, Mona Lisa smile.
My first thought was oh, I must somehow get this back to the owners (the baby photo not the cupboard) but then I looked at the back on which was inscribed in a round, unmistakeably female hand: Harry Noah Dodsworth Lauder, born: 28.10.08. So – frantic maths – the infant would be around eight years old by now.
I suppose he could even be reading this post. The ability to use the internet has now started to be inherited genetically, I reckon. Even foetuses know about CTRL-ALT-DELETE. Even in the womb, little Harry could have told me why I can no longer get links to work on this blog, and with any luck in plain English rather than irrelevant, supercilious geek-speak. Bit muffled, maybe, due to the womb.
Why did they name their child after a music-hall artiste? I wondered. But then of course they wouldn’t have heard of Harry Lauder. He was even before my time. Quite like the Noah, though. Nice manly name. Good strong ark-building name. A jutting-jawed, I’ll-do-it my-way sort of name. And Dodsworth… Dodsworth… Charles Lutwidge…? Oh no, that was Dodson. More likely the mother’s maiden name or a treasured family surname.
Harry Lauder (looking rather pink also)
The baby-photo gave me an idea for a story. It’ll probably never get written, but you never know. It also reminded me of all the little objects I have found and lost. Like those red plastic sunglasses when I was a child (I would link you to my posted mini-story “She…” at this point but I can’t because WordPress have broken my links.) Like the smooth, heavy stone with a fossil of some long-dead tiny octopus on it, with legs and suckers and all. I lost that again, somewhere along the way. I’ve regretted that ever since. I’m sure the ancient fossil-octopus was a talisman, intended for me alone. Never had a day’s luck since I mislaid it.
And how many other things – a dropped key, a single earring; a child’s bangle; a small, squashy bear near the village infant’s school, probably thrown out of a push-chair; a £10 note in a car-park. All those things I found and should have kept, and now have lost again.
So, I’m going to start a Found Objects box. I’ve got a spare shoe-box (the cut-up cereal boxes will have to go somewhere else). Everything I find from now on will go in it. Everything I find will, at some point, get turned into a story; or maybe just collected, just for the saving of things that would otherwise be lost and unloved. The poetry, as they say, is in the pity.
Featured Image: Fobots (found object robots) by North Carolina artist Amy Flynn