The Printer’s Tray

Neala & Lincoln,

We’ve been in our new home almost two weeks now.
Taking care of both of you has definitely slowed down the unpacking process significantly. And I mean sloooow. The last time we moved there were no little feet in our house. I had everything unpacked and organized in 3 days.
We’ve been here 12 days and there are still boxes to unpack, my closet is a hot mess, and we can’t park both cars in the garage because it’s full of 128 unpacked boxes waiting to be broken down. For a neat freak who loves everything to be in its place, this is wretched.Part of me wants to stay up all night putting everything away. But the other part of me realizes I have to take care of two littles all day. Since sleep deprivation turns me into the worst version of myself I’ve decided to tackle a few boxes every day.  There is about an hour in the morning when you are both napping.
You are both asleep.
In your beds.
At the same time.  At this point in my life, this brief hour is totally amazing and quiet and helps me get through the rest of the day.

One box I was especially eager to unpack was the box with my printer’s tray.
This is one of my favorite things in the whole house. I can’t remember when I first saw a printer’s tray. I just remember my daddy had one for years and I loved looking at all the little trinkets he would put inside.

I have to stop here to give you a brief history lesson, so you fully appreciate the printer’s tray as I do.

Years ago, before Google and texting and Instagram, people read newspapers. As in, actual pieces of paper they would hold and read. Crazy town, I know.
By the time you read this there may not even be a Google. It will be replaced by something newer, faster and cooler. You will probably have to look up what Google was, which makes me laugh a little.

A printer’s tray was a wooden tray divided into compartments. The compartments held letters of the alphabet and other characters and symbols. Printers used these to print newspapers.
Originally they had capitals and non capitals in separate trays (cases). This is why capital letters are called “upper case” and non-capital letters are called “lower case”. Is that neat or what?
Later they combined both cases. Printers could travel easier carrying one case rather than two. Everything is all digital and techy this days, so I hope this all makes sense to you. If it doesn’t, here’s a picture below to help you understand.

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A combined case is the kind of tray I have. Only, people no longer put types in them anymore.  Instead of using it as a drawer, people hang them on their walls and put trinkets and toys and what-nots in them.Here’s my printers tray. (If you look at the very bottom you can see the black drawer handle.)

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Here’s my dad’s. (He hung his with the drawer handle on top.)

Clearly his is much cooler than mine. But he filled his over the course of many years. I’ve only been working on mine for about 5 years.

unnamed (1)He has miniature oil cans and a tin man he found while remodeling the farm house. Old bottle openers and rusty keys.  A few items are fairly “new”, but the majority of them would be considered old junk by most people.

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Because the compartments are fairly small, you have to find tiny things to put in each slot.  Daddy and I loved going to flea markets or yard sales looking for little items to fill our trays.  The older the better.

This is a picture of your PawPaw and I at a flea market.  I am pregnant with Neala.

His tray had been full for quite some time, so he started putting things on the very top.  This is when I decided he should start sharing.  Over half of the trinkets in my tray are stolen borrowed from my dad’s tray.  It then became sort of a game.  I would take a few things and put them in mine.  When he would come over he would always walk to the hallway to look at my tray.  He would either take his items back, or take a few of mine.

One day he found our Scrabble game and took out the letters of our last name to put in the tray.  Only he didn’t spell out DOYLE.  He arranged the letters to spell YODLE.  Every time he came over he would rearrange those letters.  Every time.When we were packing the house, I stopped to look at those letters.  I cried looking at those silly letters spelling out the word YODLE.  I ran my fingers across each little square, knowing the last fingers to hold them were his.

I didn’t cry when we moved.  I didn’t cry when Lincoln was born. I didn’t cry on Father’s Day.

I cried when I put up my printer’s tray.

I cried when I put the anchors in the wall, knowing daddy was the one who taught me how.
I cried when I made sure the tray was hung straight, using the level he bought me.
I cried when my fingers held those wooden letters because he won’t come over and rearrange them anymore.
He won’t notice if I take something out of his tray.
He isn’t here to help me organize the garage.  Or spray WD40 on the squeaky doors.
Or fix the broken step on the playhouse in the backyard.
The months following daddy’s death have been extremely busy and at times stressful.  Bedrest, showing the house, selling the house.
Having Lincoln, moving in with JoJo, buying a new house.
Getting a new job, unpacking the house, taking care of a baby and a toddler.
All these things have kept me ridiculously busy.  It’s not that I didn’t stop grieving.  I was just too distracted by life.Now life is starting to calm down a bit.  We are settling into the house and finding the new rhythm of taking care of two instead of one.

And now I find myself missing him horribly. Wishing I could call him and hear his voice.
Knowing this summer he would have come over while mom was at work to help me with new house projects or to spend time with the two of you.
Neala, if PawPaw were here he would sit you on his lap and brush your hair.  Then he would try to put something silly on your head. Like a small pot, a pair of your pants, or one of his bandanas.

Lincoln, he would hold you and talked sweetly to you.  He would stretch your arms out and flex your “big muscles”.  He would cuddle with you until you filled your diaper. Then he would laugh and give you back to me.

I miss my daddy and my heart aches for the memories we won’t make with him.

But I’m keeping my memories alive with the printer’s tray.  Even though it doesn’t match anything else I own. The printer’s tray is old and looks a bit out of place in our mostly modern home. Oh well.  I think one of the reasons daddy loved the printer’s tray so much was because it didn’t fit in.  It didn’t “go” with everything.  Not to mention it was quite a conversation starter.

I hung it on the hallway way in between your rooms.  Every time I have to go into one of your rooms l see it.  You will too.
I can hardly wait until you are both old enough to ask about it and all the tiny things inside. I’ll tell you what each thing is.
I’ll tell you where I found it or who gave it to me.
Most importantly, I’ll tell you about your PawPaw and the wonderful man he was.

4 thoughts on “The Printer’s Tray

  1. Oh my, what a great story. I could see your dad again and doing this. Yes a real tear jurker. But very well put. Love it Mistie Yodle 🙂


  2. Mistie, that is so beautiful! What a wonderful way to keep his memory alive and help your children to know him. You are a terrific mother and a loving daughter to think of that. Love you!
    Aunt Judy


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