Just looking at this picture makes me cringe. THIS…old beat up thing…is the Secretary from my parent’s house. My parents, who have been divorced for 20 years. Where has it resided since? I don’t know. How did it end up in my house? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m assuming while I was drugged on pregnancy hormones, one of my parents offered this 1970’s relic to my husband, and he, the taker of any piece of furniture ever offered to him, gladly accepted it. It used to have a top piece replete with a mirror and ledge, which Greg took off, because it covered the thermostat. Did it make it better or worse? It’s hard to say. It’s…THE SECRETARY; a piece of furniture so rife with bittersweet memories from my childhood, my insides curl whenever I look at it directly.
Receiving a Bay City Roller Album for Christmas, circa 1978, Grandma & Jenny near the Secretary in the background
Sweet memories: playing Barbies with my sister Jenny, pulling out all of the record albums from the lower door and using them to make Barbie houses. The empty cabinet became their hotel room on their exotic, tropical vacations. Sweet: The sound of Dad laying is car keys on the top when he came in from evening shift. I never fell asleep until he got home, and I’d run down the hall to greet him. He would take out the big National Geographic book, and read to me about wooly mammoths and tar pits. Sweet: Pulling out Captain & Tenille records and dancing the afternoon away with my cousin Jayme. Bitter: The weekly chore of dusting this thing when I was a kid. Trying to reach the top on my tippy toes, I broke Mom’s alabaster doves. Snapped those tails right off. Bitter: Everything else. My parents married very young, held together a disaster of a marriage as bravely as they could for 23 years, divorced, and became friends. That’s their story. Mine can’t be summed up quite as neatly, so I’ll just say as I am unable to reconcile those years with these years, I simply keep that door shut.
We’ve talked often about evicting this piece of crap from our first floor. Talked about building the built-in shelves which never seem to make the budget. Shopped for replacements at antique malls. Everything was too wide, too tall, or too deep. This odd space wasn’t made for furniture, and yet, with our open floor plan, begs for storage. In the meantime, Greg fell in like (men don’t love furniture, and if they do…they are married…to spouses named Steve, whom I love and invite over to dinner to beg for decorating advice…Hi Steve! Let’s meet for coffee soon!) with what I’ve come to discover is from a line of furniture known as the “Heirlooms”, and was sold at JC Penney in the 70’s. I’m sure my Mom put it on lay-away. That woman loved her some lay-away. Greg cut out the back and retrofitted it to become his one-man technical warehouse. It can charge a multitude of iThings while keeping his man-computer-gadgets readily handy. It’s practical, and Lord knows Greg loves practical. Aesthetics? Not so much his thing.
Thank you for the 1 candle, and sparing me the 40!
So in a fit of existential OH-MY-GOD-I’M-FORTY, and WHERE-HAS-MY-LIFE gone on a Saturday morning in June, I stood up, and swore to Greg not one more day. The Secretary would be changed, or would be gone. He sternly told me no way. It was too important to him. And then I did the only mature, rational thing a woman in a fake crisis can do: I threw a tantrum so royal, the toddlers of the world would have given me some kind of an award. Some kind of crumb-filled, pull-up stinky-style award. As this approach was at least novel, Greg acquiesced, hauled it into the garage, gave me a sander and some glasses, and wished me well. I promised it wouldn’t sit for 6 months, grabbed the screwdriver (not the ax, much to his relief), and got to work.
After taking it apart, sanding the bejeezus out of it, painting it, sanding again, painting some more, not dying in the garage during the hottest weeks on record (there is no cider beer left in the state…I drank it all…for hydration purposes), replacing the missing piece on the back with an extra piece of oak flooring (thanks Greg!), filling the holes and repairing the bruises, and ordering new hardware, I invited my friend Vanessa out to see it. Upon hearing my tale, she proclaimed it the best of Barbie Bandaids. The kind you’d put on in childhood and secretly hoped the cut underneath would never heal, because it was the best bandaid EVER. YES. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS GOING FOR! My girlfriends totally get me.
When we put it in its place, I realized that it was not only great, it was new to me. It was, and I mean this sincerely, as it was meant to be all along. It never wanted to be walnut-dyed oak. It wanted to be Sherwin-Williams Cashmere Bamboo Paint. SW does not recommend Cashmere paint for furniture, but I doubt anyone would have recommended I try to save this chopped up hunk of wood anyway. Cashmere goes on like thick cream, and any rookie can be a pro using it. If it doesn’t hold up, I’m guessing if I rescued this once, I can do it again. Now it can both be pretty AND hold phones and keys and Greg’s UNBELIEVABLE collection of cords. Why so many electrical accouterments guys? Hey Greg…what cord is this for? A phone you had in 2002? That phone isn’t even made anymore? But you kept the cord? Oh hey…I found the phone too! Good for you. Should ET ever show up at our doorstep, we’ll have way more than a fork and a Speak-and-Spell for him to ring up his parents.
Jenny and I were modeling new clothes, when she decided it would be funny to be armless. She was so happy to finally have a “real” cowboy belt.
Great. I spent 3 weeks refinishing a piece of furniture that basically stores outdated IT equipment just in case an alien shows up at our house with a sudden urge to craft. How’s that for solving my midlife existential crisis? And can I say I hate existential crises? It’s just a stupid argument one has inside one’s own mind. It’s like getting into a boxing match with Karma. No one wins, and time has been wasted. Time I could have spent making pointless, but very pretty, shapes with my Cricut. To hell with it. I can now look at it without my eyes squinting and getting a sudden urge to call my therapist. Mission accomplished. 10 more (give or take) Saturday “I must change everything” freak out sessions, and this whole 40-thing should blow over…right? Let’s look on the bright side: if I spend my mid-life crisis remodeling furniture, I think we can call this year a win.
*Hardware was inexpensive, special order from Lowe’s. No name, just some ridiculously long number. Paint color is “Bamboo” from Menard’s Hardware, which I carried to Sherwin-Williams. Total cost = Best $77 I’ve ever spent on furniture.*