Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Birthday Gift That Kept on Haunting

Since we are a few days past my birthday, sorry if you missed it, I must admit it's not so much fun getting old anymore. It's not the being older in years that's the worst, but the aches and pains that accompany it—which is another matter.
We lived in Chicago while I was growing up, but summered at our lake cottage on Delavan in Wisconsin. My birthdays were a real treat. Each year I could count on a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting decorated with yellow roses from Boutelle's Bakery and presents that were wrapped in pink tissue paper, tied-up in ribbons. I'd sit on the sunny porch, perched on a chair, crown on top of my head with braided hair while sailboats glided passed in the background. Very picturesque.
Then one birthday I got the most horrid gift. I was in sixth grade and my mother felt the kitchen table was no longer the proper study place for me, so she bought me a desk and placed it in my bedroom, upon my pink rug, right in front of the Pricilla laced curtains that framed the windows.
The desk wasn’t one of those charming pieces of furniture with small cubbies at the top for stamps and stationeries; one of those I might have liked. The desk I was given was practical, utilitarian, and served the purpose for which my mother bought it—for studying. The surface was large. Three drawers down each side and the thinner middle drawer. The whole thing was beige. I had to leave the area when I needed to daydream.
Years later, while in high school, Mother thought the desk needed a face lift so she striped it and got one of those new paint kits that were fresh on the market at the time. You chose your fake antique color and then painted on with a special treatment which was to make it look like a genuine antique when completed. Well, it didn’t. The desk was now very dark green with black lines through it. Mother thought replacing the drawer pulls might jazz it up a bit so she bought brass knobs that had a chariot emboldened on it. I didn’t think it was possible for that desk get any uglier until she gave it the treatment.
Of all the things I have owned in my lifetime that is the only belonging that followed me everywhere I went for years and years. It dogged me. Seriously. When I went to college, it came along, when I got my own apartment it was there, and when I moved back home while I filled out job applications, it came back too. Why couldn't I have been followed by my first baby doll, or the pretty chenille bedspread, or the antique floral dishes my great grandmother gave to my mother and then my older sister got? Sigh.
The desk even came along when I got married and we moved to Virginia, back to Illinois and down to Texas. Finally I pawned it off on my daughter Kim when she turned ten, kind of like a rite of passage. I got it when I was ten now it's her turn to be shadowed by it. I felt like writing at the bottom of her birthday card, 'good luck honey' but resisted the urge.
Why do we hold onto things like this? Is it because we have had it for so long that we feel obligated to bring it along with us like ol' Uncle Harry to a family reunion?
One summer, Kimberly and I decided to have a garage sale. That ugly green desk, now chipped with time, was the first thing we sold. That was eighteen years ago and ya know, I still don't miss it.


Edna said...

you are funny, I don't like to have garage sales as I have to pack it all back up never sell much even if I have it almost priced so low that I would have to pay them to take it. LOL


Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

Awww Robin, you should have put a pretty shabby rose covered fabric skirt on that desk. :) Can you email me? I don't have your email, since I lost my contact list when I got a new computer and I need to ask something about ebay? xo Lynn

Grandmommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grandmommy said...

This is funny because as a child I wanted a book shelf for my room so my mom bought me a really good piece of solid unfinished wood and did the antiquing kit in dark green, also. I loved that shelf and even put it in my son's room. We eventually did the white crackle over the green. Then my son built his own shelf and stuck mine in the hallway outside his room. My kids said to get rid of it so it sits on my mom's patio waiting for the garage sale we have planned in the near future. Yet, I still don't want to sell it. It's such a great piece of furniture. How funny, that I saw the same green antiquing kit as a work of love, though not really beautiful these days. It was one of my mom's rare attempts at crafting. She actually did the same thing in white to our old piano and we also kept it for years.

Love your story! Karen

mpostell said...

I think I had your desk's cousin! Wooden, three drawers on each side, middle pencil drawer. Mom was into Colonial so mine had a Williamsburg wannabe look. Where would they have bought it? Sears? Marshall FIelds (nah, Fields would have been too expensive). It didn't shadow my life like yours did; wonder what happened to it. I've been trying to visualize your bedroom (Wellington and Delavan) but I can't see the heinous stalker desk. Fun post, thanks!

Kailin Gow said...

I just had a birthday, too! Happy birthday, Robin! I'm still hanging onto things from my childhood, especially my old furniture (only it's at my parents' house). Maybe someday my daughter will be able to use it since the style is still classic - white girly four-poster bed with matching white bookcases with crown molding. I wished I had a matching writing desk, though, because that would be a cute set. I do have a nightstand that's still there, too, which I used to hold all of my writings (in journals). It was an outcast among the perfectly princess white bedroom set in the room, but because it held my most prized possession (at the time) - my personal musings, it was my most treasured. It was white with yello on the side with a hand-painted pink daisy growing on the side. If my daughter wished to have it, that's something that'll get pass on to her, too.

It's funny how furniture brings so much memory. Your blog reminded me how much they are a part of our lives. Thank you.