Friday, August 29, 2014

TToT41: A Find

Several years ago, before we had kids, we bought Brian a dresser at a used furniture store near our home. The store was located in a warehouse-like building filled with treasures and junk, and I'd wandered in one day with a dresser in mind. (The store was, a few years later, converted into a church, I think, or perhaps a beauty spa...or both. In that regard, the place was very much a symbol of the "neighborhood in transition" in which we lived. But that's beside the point.)


Fortunately, on that day, I discovered this gem of a dresser. It has four sizeable drawers and one fold-down desk area. The interesting carving on the top drawer (someone ringing a bell in front of a village?) just added to its appeal. I knew at the time that the dresser was in desperate need of stripping and revarnishing, but at that time in my life, I knew I had plenty of time and energy for a project like that.

But the years passed by, and I never did get to that project, overwhelmed by the prospect of all those hinges, drawers, and pigeonholes in the desk area. When we moved to MD, it (along with several other items of furniture) underwent some damage, and the desk drawer never could push in all the way. But the dresser got relegated to the basement guest room so it wasn't something I fretted over very often.

However, about two weeks ago I got one of the flares of passion and energy for a specific project and decided I'd pull out all the drawers to see just what the problem was. To my disappointment, I discovered that the dresser frame was not open and there was no way to see in to the desk compartment from either the drawer above or the drawer below.

BUT!

Peering upwards in the dim drawer area under the desk, I found this treasure:


Fred and Ruth. So much "scope for the imagination," as Anne Shirley would have said. I guess it seems likely they were married in 1936, were Christian, and one died in 1989. Did they buy the dresser as young couple? Who wrote that inscription? What did he/she envision for it? Was it made in a moment of grief and/or did he/she hope someone like me would find it and wonder about Fred and Ruth and their relationship of the mid-20th century? I suppose Fred or Ruth ended his or her years in Western North Carolina. I suppose a relative or friends donated the dresser, having no use for it.

And as much as there are numerous choose-your-own adventure options within that one tame storyline, that storyline is, indeed, tame. There is so much more to imagine. How far has this dresser travelled? How many people have owned it? What grief and joy has it witnessed (and contained)?

I have spent and will continue to spend hours imagining the lives of Fred and Ruth and all the possible owners who came before or since. Besides the likelihood of the furniture being better made than furniture today, the main reason I love pre-owned furniture is the imaginary possibilities of its past. Worth ten in thankfuls any day.

And, hey, what do you imagine about Fred and Ruth?

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37 comments :

  1. Replies
    1. OH MY GOD WHAT A TREASURE! I wanted the dresser before I moved on to the inscription but now!.... My brother carved his name into the side of his dresser drawers when we moved one time... he wanted to be sure his didnt get mixed up because we all had the same dressers!

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    2. Zoe, we have another dresser that was my brother's and then mine in our childhoods. It's Leo's now, and I've painted it a couple of times. The first time I painted it, I found STYX (as in the band, not the river) carved into the side of one of the drawers.

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    3. hahahha I can totally see that happening in our house...

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    4. oops hit enter too soon... have you ever seen the tv show "If the Walls Could Talk"? Its on the home network and they go into old homes that people have found historical items or carvings or well, crap really during renovations or moving... its fascinating...

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    5. I don't know that show! I should look and see if we get that channel.

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  2. That's VERY cool indeed :D

    I love things like that. I once bought a musical jewellery box at a charity shop, and tucked away in one of the ring-holder bits was a tiny crystal (sadly only glass - we checked) and a child's tooth!

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    1. That's wonderful! Doesn't it make you wonder?

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  3. When the children were small we renovated a Queen Anne Victorian. We moved to something that required less up keep once the kids' schedules got too busy for our wonderful house to be cared for as she should. Before we left we went to the attic and wrote our names on one of the beams along with the years we lived there and the fact that we loved the place and had been happy there. I love that Fred and Ruth were as sentimental as we are! ~May

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    1. I love that, May! How wonderful for the future owners. I would rejoice to find a treasure like that in my attic.

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  4. I have dresser almost the same as yours. What a find indeed!

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    1. Hmmm...do you know anything about the maker of such dressers? This is clearly a quality piece. And the desk drawer pushes in now!

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    2. No I don't but I'll ask my MIL. I got it from her in a terrible state. I refinished it and it looks much better now. Mine has a lock mechanism on it and sad to say I've never been able to fix it.

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  5. ohmygosh THIS IS AMAZING!!! That just grabs my HEART!! Precious. Just precious...

    Yes- I believe they were married in 1936 and one of them or both perhaps died. Can you imagine a life of love like that? Can you imagine Fred underneath that dresser carving those those faithful words? Oh what a treasure!! God bless Fred and Ruth! May they both be dancing together in Heaven now... looking down at your new find and smiling. I can picture them stopping, arm in arm together as Ruth raises her eyebrow while looking at Fred, and Fred winking with a sly smile in response. Oh, what a gift!

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    1. Yes! Chris, take it away! I love that picture, and as an emotional person, I definitely think of the emotion behind that carving. Isn't it such fun to picture them?

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  6. That is so sweet! And that Fred is the one who wrote it, not Ruth. That Fred, he was a keeper. I would have to guess that Ruth died in 1989, after 53 years together. Love the little cross at the end.

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    1. Fred certainly does sound like to keeper to have carved that in a hidden place of the dresser.

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  7. That is so precious - who knows who Ruth and Fred are but we all know Fred loves Ruth isn't that wonderful! When my renovated her kitchen she asked all of us to write on the beam, it would be interesting if many years from now a new family wanting to renovate the kitchen should find this piece of history - we all have our names on it and of course I wrote mangia,mangia...no talk and my favorite description of the word family - in Russian the word for family is semya - which loosely can also mean 7 of me - I wrote in big blod letters 7 of me - because the names on that beam is family! I love when treasures are found. :)

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    1. That's wonderful, Marisa! What a treasure for the next people to find! What I love about the message in the dresser and yours is that underneath it all, you're saying, "There was love here." It just gives me chills.

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  8. What an amazing find, Amy! Somehow, it makes me think of the beginning of the movie "Up" :-) Have a great weekend!

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    1. Oh, I totally get how that makes you think of Up. That beginning is a tear-jerker!

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  9. What a wonderful find. I'm guessing Fred wrote that. It's the kind of thing my Grandfather used to do with and for my Grandmother. One year he had sweatshirts made that had their names on and the date they met and how many years they had been together. Aaaaand....now I'm crying my eyeballs out thinking of Fred and Ruth and my Grandparents and how they are all probably dancing away together in Heaven because I guarantee that's what my Grandparents are doing up there right now. I suspect they'd get along famously with Ruth and Fred.
    I have to go finish crying now. God, I miss them!

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    1. That is so sweet! I know how fondly you remember your grandparents.

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  10. Oh, I love mysteries like this one! It makes me want to search on ancestry for Fred and Ruth to see what can be found.

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  11. I imagine them to be star-crossed lovers. They obtained the dresser, a token of their love, after their elopement. ;)

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  12. I love this post, Sarah. I also feel attached to the stories of vintage pieces of furniture and such. What a wonderful discovery and what imaginaries it sparks. The dresser itself is beautiful. I could really use a dresser with a center area that folds down like a desk.

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    1. It is a cool piece of furniture. This is why I like to shop used.

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  13. That. Is. Awesome. I love finding things like that. It's one of the reasons I love where I live so much. (150 year old farm) So many questions...

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    1. Yeah, I bet your house (and land) is full of history. So interesting to compare lives of when it was built to today.

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  14. I would LOVE that! I am such a nut when it comes to things like this! I just recently inherited my great grandparents' bedroom furniture...solid maple twin beds, a gorgeous vanity and dresser. They bought it when they got married and it is over 100 years old. I do not lie when I tell you I can feel the history in that furniture. I can imagine my great-grandmother sitting at that vanity brushing her hair, them sleeping in the twin beds as was common in that time. It is in my daughter's room and she absolutely loves the idea of having the furniture that belonged to her GREAT-GREAT grandparents. So, yes, I believe you have a real treasure there!

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    1. That's wonderful, Sandy! I know it would make me happy to see my children appreciate the things from the past that I appreciate. Right now my daughter has a raggedy old quilt on her bed that my great-grandmother made. And she's making it more raggedy, but I don't think I can ever part with it.

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  15. I so love love it. It makes me want to write on all of my furniture right now. Wait, was that not the message? Because I am SO writing on my furniture. Also, about 2 years ago, Tucker and I wrote underneath our table. He was hiding under there and it seemed like a good idea. Oh. But another also? When I went to repaint my childhood dresser that I'd moved into an apartment years later, on the back of one of the drawers, I saw my 7-year old handwriting that I hated my mom, and I'd forgotten about that. I think I painted over it though. I'd hate for somebody to find that and wonder if I was a brat or abused or what (brat).
    I think your dresser is COOL!

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    1. What a cool find, though. Brings you back to the moment. But I might have painted over it, too. I bet Tucker will never paint the bottom of your dining room table.

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  16. Fifty three years of marriage, and this dresser was in their bedroom. That's what I think. I have a nightstand and a chair from my grandmother, and I will never get rid of them even though they completely clash with the rest of my furniture. I think I may have to write in the drawer now, though.

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    1. You should! All my furniture clashes, I imagine. I formed the decorating theory of "if you love it, it probably goes with the rest" to make myself feel better about that.

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