Thursday, October 4, 2007

new life for old things

There is something very pleasurable about giving another life to something old and forgotten. The found object becomes a favorite piece--the lamp left by previous owners, the chair picked up in the trash on a city curb, the old chintz curtains packed away in the attic--becoming a thing we see and touch everyday, a thing that informs our hours, informs the way we look at our world. This thing not only defines our space, but something about who we are. These objects, yet they are more than objects because we are somehow drawn to them immediately as if they have a personality or a spirit, call for transformation like the phoenix rising from the ashes. They are narrative. They have a story to tell that weaves itself into the story we continue. We bring them home, dress them up in that new lamp shade with the pert black trim, or call the upholsterer for the new batting and springs, and order the new fabric for the chair, or after a good washing make the trip to the seamstress, unless we can sew ourselves, and turn the drapery into pillows or a duvet.

Our house is filled with such objects. And there are others we have still waiting to be re-claimed. The pieces we've stored away to fix-up on a rainy day. There's the lamp that the previous owners of our house did leave behind (along with an upholstered chair, a gate-leg table, two more lamps, an old garden basket, two wooden farm chairs, and an old suitcase with real 1950 travel stickers from places like Canada, Mont St. Michel, Japan, and India) that I have grand plans for involving silver spray paint, some old bobeches with glass teardrops, and some black organdy ribbon. I've had my eye on an old piano stool for some time that I salvaged out of Caleb's parents attic most fondly known as The Glory Hole. We've had the stool for sixteen years now, and have moved three places with it. We've stripped it down to its natural wood, its top gaping as it once had a caned seat. We thought we'd take it to a local gentleman south of town named Lyman Shrove to re-cane it (we really just loved his name), but never got around to putting it in the car. It's come in and out of storage becoming useful with an atlas resting on it's legs, or a couple of white painted planks to hold drinks out on the balcony. Or we've tucked it back up into our own barn loft to simply get it out of the way. Until recently. In a fit of industry, I painted it white and Caleb made a top out of MDF to fit into the place where the caning used to be, neat little cleats to hold it in place. Then I wrapped the new top in batting and cut a piece of zebra-print fabric to size and stapled. It's back in service now, as an ottoman of sorts paired to a mis-matched bedroom chair. We can see it in the morning when we wake up, or first thing when we come downstairs. We can rest our weary legs on it and read late into the night, or we can still rest the atlas on it if we want to look at all the places we want to travel, or become nostalgic about the places we've already been.

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