The Whale Tooth in the Trunk

My house is still breathing deep as it was last time I wrote a few weeks ago. It's recovering from the bout with Halloween. This weekend we are going to get our Christmas tree; then the official Christmas decorating will commence! Monday night, we returned from a week in Iowa. We packed a ton into that week, and each day had a definable cadence: Wednesday we put up Mom’s Christmas tree and decorations; Thursday we had a Thanksgiving feast with just Mom, Dad, and Aunt Anne; Friday we took two tall, dead elms down at Mom and Dad’s; Saturday we celebrated an early Christmas with my sister’s and brothers’ families; Sunday we had a belated Easter egg hunt; Monday we flew home. When the bus dropped us off at our van in the airport parking lot, we looked at one another as if we had just time traveled, “Didn’t we just leave?”

In the van, the same goldfish wrappers, grocery lists, and empty water bottles were right where we had left them – and that was just the inventory in the front seat. As Bill packed the cases into the cargo area, I remembered what was tucked into a side pocket back there: a baleen whale tooth.

At the beach last summer, I picked up an intriguing skinny, white, foot-long stick. At first, I thought it was just a hard piece of plastic, it felt like the handle of a fly swatter but was frayed at one end. Within 30 seconds, the thought of baleen whale tooth came to mind. Where did I pull that from, God only knows. At the end of that beach day, we packed our sandy beach chairs, coolers, beach quilt, and buckets into the van. And one, at that time “possible,” whale tooth.

At home, I shook out the blankets, put the chairs and buckets in the garage, and took the coolers to the mud room. I knew what to do with those items in our day-at-the-beach inventory. But a potential whale tooth? I gave it an up-close inspection: hard plastic on one end split into thin plastic hairs at the other; then I went into the house and Googled it. Sure enough: baleen whale tooth it was. It is. Yes, indeed it still is. In the back of my van. And yes... that was July and it's now nearly December.

Why is it still there? Well, where does one keep an amazing treasure like a whale tooth? It won’t fit in my shell jars; plus those are meant for shells only. It might fit in the long, rectangular, bronze planter box perched high on top of the computer hutch. That’s where I keep the complete horseshoe crab shells I’ve collected. A long way from the ocean, they are tucked deep into the planter, collecting dust from the air. They share the planter with a small creeping plant lodged at one end.

I know why I haven’t put the whale tooth into the planter: it’s a silly place to keep a treasure. I want to see it – as I would like to see the horseshoe crab shells. However, I know that scattering my beach treasures willy-nilly on shelves would put them in a whole new category – no longer Treasure, but rather Clutter. Collectors of Dust. A better home decorator would have this sauced out by now.

I have a thought. I could put the odd-shaped sea treasures in a clear, oblong glass serving plate that I have tucked away. Then put it on display on a shelf. When the treasures and the glass gather dust, I can just run them under water to give them a quick cleaning. But this mini beach vignette won't appear until Christmas decs have spent time on the said shelf. No, the safest place for the whale tooth is still in the back of my van… until January. What’s one more month?

Take an Iowa farm girl off the gravel roads, plant her next to the Atlantic Ocean, and voila! There she is with a whale tooth stuck in her trunk.