A couple of months back there was a Pickles cartoon where Earl finally gets a new chair. He decides to put his old chair on the road so someone can get it and put a FREE sign on it. He and his wife Opal move the couch and he says "Good-bye, old friend." The next panel shows not only the couch still there, but a lamp and a chair have joined the couch. Opal looks at him and says, "Your old friend has company."
We just had our summer junk giveaway on my road. This is when someone, I forget who, comes to get the stuff we do not need anymore, the old friends we used to love goes out front. This year we finally gave away my old computer chair. It was just time. It had a hole in the middle and it kept poking my butt as I sat down to write.
I started to clean it with a washcloth, remembering when we first got the chair. They were redoing the office where my mother worked and she brought it home. It was the ugliest chair you would ever see. It was bright orange and the seat was made of orange and red carpet like material. Yet I loved this chair. I would twirl around and around in it, feeling very grown up. I would sit in that chair and write stories on the typewriter. The reason why I could finally give away the chair is that we got another one from the Goodwill.
It hit me that a lot of the furniture in my house is second hand. It's not entirely true; my bookcases were all bought at a department store. There's the dining set in the living room that belonged to my grandparents. My grandmother's hutch is in the living room. The entertainment center used to belong to my Aunt Chia, and the futon where I sit belonged to my cousin. When people talk about doing their houses in Colonial or whatever, I blink several times, pretending I know what they are saying. Because the way my house is decorated, it could be considered Second Hand Rose Style.
The truth is, I don't mind it. Almost all the furniture in my house has a story. The cedar chest that holds our Christmas decorations was found at a Salvation Army. My mother and I found it one Saturday and Mom paid fifty dollars for it. We took it home and we refinished it and painted it to look like an antique. When you open it up, the cedar smell is just as strong as it was when I was ten.
Near our doorway is a chest where we keep our candles. It has brass sidings and I remember we found it at the St. Vincent De Paul when I was seventeen. By then I was embarrassed to go with my mother to a thrift store because it seemed like no one went to thrift stores, only poor people went to thrift stores. However, my mother liked me going with her and sometimes I would find a paperback I could get for a quarter.
My mother forgot her checkbook and they had trouble with the credit card reader working. I remember how disappointed she looked, that it was not meant to be hers. They wouldn't hold the chest. I felt so angry at the time. Sometimes it felt like life was against us. Of course it wasn't, but that's how I felt. I always felt there wasn't enough money, I felt insecure at school, and I felt it was so unfair that we couldn't even get a chest we wanted.
It was near closing for St. Vincent De Paul's so we went home. "It's not fair," I kept on saying as we went home. "It's so unfair. It never works out for us."
She looked at me. "Sure it works out for us," she said. "You have a job, don't you?"
"And I have a job, right? That's a lot more than a lot of people have."
"But why couldn't they just hold the chest for us?"
"It's their rules. If it's meant to be ours, it's meant to be. If it isn't, it isn't."
The next day we got up early. Mom withdrew money from the ATM. We went over there and it was still there. I also noticed it was hidden from view, so no one else could see it. "You see?" she said. "It was meant to be ours."
It taught me a valuable lesson that some things are meant to be. We were meant to have that chest at that time. If we had gotten it right when we saw it, it wouldn't have meant so much to us as when we bought it the next day. I was meant to get the futon couch the week I had a setback with my sprained jaw and I couldn't sleep, so I could sleep in the living room and watch To Kill a Mockingbird and Blue Chips during the night.
For years, I had an awkward desk that if I moved my knee too high, I bang it and left a bruise. I tried selling the desk, no luck. It took up space in my bedroom for years. No thrift stores wanted it. I didn't know what to do with it and when we moved, it sat in my storage room for a long time. Sometimes I would get depressed and think what's the matter with my life? I couldn't even get rid of a desk!
Then my mother heard of a woman who just moved to an apartment but didn't have much furniture. My mother asked if she needed a desk. Yes, she told my mother, she would love a desk for homework. In days, the desk was at her doorstep. The desk was simply waiting for its new home.
So I never think of the things in my house as used. Don't get me wrong, someday I would love a new bed or one of those massage chairs you find at Brookstone. In the meantime, I'll take the gently used chair, the slightly abused couch. I'll take my shabby style over Colonial any day of the week.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries