We have a problem here at The Cunning Plan household. This is going to be a sticky one, taking all of my resolve and much of my energy in terms of putting the proverbial money where the mouth is, if you get my drift. I may have to rely on Mike for strength. To be succinct, our problem is that our daughter,Claire, is moving home for awhile as part of her own cunning plan for the future. It’s not what you think. This isn’t a ‘rebound kid’ situation. She has a great job and is a fully formed grownup. We welcome her back and look forward to having her. But not her stuff. We don’t look forward to her stuff.
Actually, to be brutally fair, it’s not really HER stuff we’re not looking forward to. Oh, sure, there will be the usual transition time where we all learn to live differently in the house once more and people wrangle for personal space for their belongings (NOT in the middle of the sitting room, okay?) But we’ll get through all that. After all, we’re all adults here. The real problem is that she is bringing home more of OUR stuff in the way of furniture. Claire has the most adorable apartment in the world. It’s in an old Victorian house, has a bay window, hardwood floors, and an exquisite little fireplace. And it’s almost completely furnished with our furniture. Ouch. She’s going to be bringing an apartment full of furniture back home. Do I need to explain this further?
How does a mild-mannered family of 4 collect this massive amount of furniture (asks the curious reader)? Here’s the gist of that: Mike and I have been married for almost 30 years. Most people collect a myriad assortment of furnishings over that amount of time. In addition to the sheer number of years, I have a tendency to be somewhat…’creative’. Yes. That’s the word. Creative. And while I love really good, solid furniture that stands the test of time, I am pretty frugal when it comes to purchasing furniture. Okay, fine! I’m cheap when it comes to purchasing furniture. There is something about putting down several thousand dollars for, say, a couple of chairs, that just gives me pause. I’m getting better about that as I get older, but for the greater part of 3 decades I have had an alter ego that has landed us in this mess. Who is this alter ego, ask the inquiring minds among you? Melissa White: Furniture Stripper!
So much of the furniture we now own are pieces that I found for almost nothing at a rummage sale, or thrift shop, or the like and then nursed back to life. Pieces like the solid maple gateleg table I bought for $25 when Claire was about 5. It had several layers of paint on it. I stripped it, sanded it, stained it and painted the legs black. It’s beautiful. Or how about the solid maple dressing table with Queen Anne legs that I bought from someone for 20$ when Claire was 3? It’s heavy as all heck and has graceful lines. Again with the stripping, sanding, staining. It’s a fantastic piece of furniture and has been used as her dress-up table, my desk, and a sofa table over the years. It’s very versatile.
Then there are the two overstuffed chairs with rolled arms I bought because I knew they were quality pieces. I paid the best upholsterer in town to do them in taupe velvet. They are classic. I probably cannot buy chairs of this quality anywhere. And there is the very old steamer trunk I bought when I was in highschool. It was my first ‘antique’. I refinished the wood on the outside, wrote my name on the inside, and took it to college with me.
This is only a small sampling of the pieces I must decide about. (Oh, those velvet chairs are staying. Let’s be clear about that right now.) So much of our family’s history is represented in these pieces. Many of them I bought when the children were young. We couldn’t afford to buy nice furniture without going into debt, and we didn’t want to do that. But I wanted nice things. So I became pretty good at something I enjoyed anyhow. And we ended up with a home filled with priceless pieces that are personal and lovely and somehow make our home warmer than new furniture ever could. I have an oak dresser that belonged to my parents when they were first married. I have two large book cases that my mom got in the early 1970’s. I have a solid wood buffet that my mom got when I was a young child, now refinished with funky green glass handles. I grew up with those pieces, and they are really nice. I would choose them again today. They are irreplaceable. How could I possibly part with them now? These choices are going to be really hard.
I had a dream a few nights ago that I was back in college somewhere and someone had stolen my bike. I was late to class and arrived pushing a shopping cart with only one item in it: a bike lock. I pushed that cart across the front of the class, in front of the teacher, and then all the way to the back of the class before being seated. That dream is pretty clear to me. I do feel as though I am learning new and hard things, lessons for which I am only marginally prepared. I have no idea how I’m going to get from one “class” to the next, as though somehow I’ve been too cavalier in protecting what is mine. I am left with the lock, but my bike is gone. It’s apparent that between releasing myself from the ownership of things that are intimately entwined with my personal history and publishing this blog to share that process, some part of me is beginning to feel like a homeless person on parade.
I know this feeling will pass. I realize it’s all a part of the process of letting go. But I’m reminded, once again, that reading about something is so much easier than doing that thing. So Peter Walsh, if you are reading this blog (as if…) please be gentle with me. Because I’m not going to promise that I can let everything go in one fell swoop. Maybe there is a reason why this is a 4 year plan.