20 December 2011

Detritus Maximus

I was walking through my cottage the other day, getting ready to 'deck the halls' for the holiday and muttering to myself—as I am wont to do—about things I'd like to change, chores that needed to be done, and (my personal favorite passtime) musing about where things came from.  Family.  Friends.  Good Will.  Yard Sales.  Curbs in front of neighbors' houses on trash day.  (Funny, how the word 'curb' means to restrain or keep in check, and yet I simply cannot restrain or check myself from dragging home all manner of chairs, shelves, tables, baskets, oars, plant pots or bed headboards on trash day.)

In any case, I noticed that nearly every room has one of two items:  a writing desk and/or a rocking chair.  There are two rocking chairs in the downstairs parlor, one in the kitchen, one in the dining room, two in the upstairs den (a child's rocker in addition to an adult one), and three—count 'em: three—on the verandah.  I don't know what it is about the soothing motion of a rocker, but I can't imagine a home without one.  (Apparently, I can't imagine a ROOM without one.) 

 My first rocker—a maple "Boston" rocker—was a gift from my parents when I was a teenager. The next—a 'nursing' rocker which allows a mother to hold her child unencumbered by chair arms—was a hand-me-down from a childhood neighbor. The caning on the seat and back was ruined but we had it repaired by the Association for the Blind. The next rocker—a 'kitchen' rocker—was purchased at a yard sale. It came with chipped paint, a broken spoke, and a wide enough seat to make sitting in it a real pleasure while things were baking in the oven. A more recent acquisition—a velvet Victorian 'Swan' rocker—was dragged from the curb next door when my neighbors were moving. The rockers on the veranda—tall white beauties with rush backs and seats—belonged to a friend who used them on his porch for many years and then passed them on to me before he died. The child's rocker was a yard sale acquisition for my daughter, and now her children (and the occasional teddy bear) get comfortable there.

As for writing desks, there's one in the dining room (the one most often used), one in the parlor, one in the guest room, one in the upstairs den and one in the master bedroom.  Admittedly the one in the den is actually a dining table, which makes a wonderful desk.  [Read: more square footage to fill with stuff] And the one in the master bedroom, which belonged to my grandmother, is currently serving as a Vanity table to hold photos, baubles, ring holders and porcelain boits des bijoux.  The one in the parlor—which now holds books, candlesticks, an old cricket ball and a bronze lion—is an old oak secretarial desk from the cellar of my office. It has a tiny pen drawer and a wooden tray that slides out, presumably for the secretary to lean on as she wrote. ("Miss Perrywinkle, take a letter.") Still, a desk is a desk and they clearly speak to my love of writing—novels, poems, letters to friends, journals for myself—as well as my penchant for times past when people actually sat at a desk, took a pen, and communicated with one another without wires, machines, dials, keypads or electricity.

I am the original owner of only one of these items—the "Boston" Rocker— and so I never tire of wondering about the others. Their pedigree, the homes they came from, the people who loved, used, and cast them aside.  When my grandchildren visit I invariably find them, at one time or another, seated at the writing desk in the dining room, thumbing through my stationery, choosing pens from the holder, writing "letters" to me or simply scribbling drawings. Or they'll jockey for a seat at the desk in the upstairs den, tapping away at the antique Royal typewriter and poking around in the cubby holes of the desk organizer.  And they both gravitate to the rocking chairs in the parlor whenever it's time to watch a film or cartoon, moving slowly backwards and forwards, surrounded by shawls and pillows.

In one man's trash is another woman's treasures.

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