It's the end of an era in my life. I'm retiring the lobster claw.

It's not a real lobster claw, it's an oven mitt that looks like a claw. And I'm not really retiring it, I'm just moving it to my kitchen.The lobster claw has spent the last 16 months in my car. I've never been sure how it got there. I know I had just taken a leave of absence from my full-time job, resigned from a part-time job, bought one car and sold another, graduated from college and put most of my belongings into storage. And, after missing several nights of sleep, I had packed my car with only what I thought I would need for a summer journalism seminar in Washington, D.C.

I admit it. Survival, not organization, was my main priority during the weeks before my trip. When it came time to leave, I squeezed my weary body into my car, grabbed the sun-baked steering wheel, then yelped and released it. It was too hot to touch.

I could not, of course, find the steering wheel cover I had bought for the occasion. I also couldn't sit in the driveway waiting for cooler weather. I dug a tender hand into the pile of clothing in the back seat. It came back gripping a sock and the lobster oven mitt.

So I steered east with one "claw" and one "foot." I had a great time waving at truckers and scaring children who dared to wave at me. I thoroughly enjoyed the result of my packing frenzy - until I got to Georgetown University and realized the same exhausted mind had been in charge of loading the entire car.

I did find a use for the single high-heeled shoe I had packed. It worked well as a hammer to tack my dresses to my dorm room wall. I had forgotten hangers. I neglected to bring makeup, but luckily, I also forgot a mirror. I had enough underwear to service half my body; never mind which half.

My new roommate was impressed. She had never lived with such a free spirit. No other dorm room had practical art on the walls, changing as often as I changed my clothes. No other student wore one brown shoe and one blue shoe with her brown and blue dress (I am still looking for the mates to those shoes).

She did not, however, see the humor in the lobster claw driving glove. She ducked low every time she rode in my car.

After I returned to Salt Lake City, I slept for a week, then started looking for a writing job. Assuming the job would require another move, I left my boxes in storage. When winter came, I drove to my storage unit to look for gloves. I ravaged my boxes, but found nothing. What idiot had packed these boxes? And then refused to unpack them?

I was desperate. I looked in my car for anything to cover my hands. I found the lobster claw and another oven mitt. I was really stepping up in the world, I told myself. No "hand socks" for this woman. Nothing but the best "matching" oven mitts.

I wore my mitts to the library every day to read a directory of newspapers around the nation. I made a lot of friends who figured someone wearing a lobster oven mitt must be interesting. It never occurred to them I might be a bad packer and a worse unpacker.

Just before the spring thaw, I accepted a job with the Utah County Bureau of the Deseret News. I got my boxes out of storage, and have even unpacked a few. It has been an exciting 16 months, and it's nice to finally settle down a little.

Still, I was a little sad when I opened the box containing the steering wheel cover. It was in a carton with a bar of soap, a cake pan, a package of spaghetti and a book on how to organize your belongings. I'd wondered where I'd put that book.

It's been an exciting, transitional period of my life, but it's nice to be settled and sane again. Still, the lobster claw has improved my sense of humor. I would hate to get too boring and serious.

But I may not have to worry. Fall is almost here, and I can't find my gloves anywhere.