As an online instructor, I spend an inordinate amount of time staring at a computer screen every week. During this endless winter, I have stared out at the same white landscape since, let’s see, October? When I’m not grading, I’m prepping for the coming week. And when I’m not prepping for the coming week, I’m writing. My fingers get a workout. The rest of me? Not so much.
And so, every Thursday morning, I volunteer at the ReStore in Grand Rapids refurbishing donated furniture that needs a little TLC before it is placed on the sales floor. This gets me out of my head and onto the floor as I scrape and paint and stain furniture. Each Thursday when I start a project, my clothes are clean. By the time I pound the covers back on the paint cans, I’m a mess with sanding dust in my nostrils and a slight buzz from the polyurethane. I head home with creaky joints and that “good tired” feeling that only comes with physical labor. It is pure bliss for a person who has had a hard time sitting still most of her life. Each time I see a piece of furniture I’ve resurrected leave the store with a happy customer, it makes me happy. All proceeds from the ReStore go to Habitat for Humanity in Itasca County to help with the cost of building homes for families who need them.
Last week when I arrived at the store there was a buffet about the size of an elephant waiting for me in my work space. Keep in mind that I had intended to paint a child’s rocking chair that day, so finding this behemoth blocking my work bench was a bit of a surprise. The first thing I noticed was that one of the drawers had been “decorated” with small stickers that needed to be removed. To say that the piece had seen its better days is an understatement. However, as I cleaned and sanded the buffet I was struck by its solid construction and lovely Art Deco lines. Later that morning, as I re-stained it, I saw the piece of furniture coming back to life and imagined the young bride in the 1930’s who would have chosen the piece for her dining room so long ago. How proud this nameless, faceless person must have been to own such a fine piece of furniture during the Depression! As I worked, I noticed several spots on the top where hot serving platters or casseroles had more than likely been set through the years as well as the water rings and scratches acquired through decades of use. When it was new, it must have been a thing of beauty. Each mark made through the years of feeding family and guests made it no less so. Some scratches were too deep to remove. I hope the new owner of the piece will understand and love it, despite this.
After all, doesn’t time leave scratches and dents disguised as memories in, and on, us all?
(For more information on ReStore of Itasca County, go to http://www.itascahabitat.org/mn/restore/)