Friday, February 4, 2011

If that desk could talk...

"Mom!  You have a dangerous object in your desk!"
I put down the dismal junk mail I had been flipping through in the kitchen and sauntered across the living room to confirm the presence of danger.
"Mom, what IS this?  Did you know you have secret treasures in here??"
I have a beautiful antique mahogany desk that belonged to my Grandma.  It's a gorgeous piece of furniture complete with wavy front drawers, a drop-down desk, ornate claw feet, and small slots and cubbies on the inside.  It's one of those conversation pieces that I wish could talk and let us all in on the secrets and events it has witnessed over the last century.
My Grandma received the desk among other pieces of furniture when a distant relative from California passed away and her estate was divided among living relatives.  I remember when the big delivery came and how excited everyone was about the beauty and the history that surrounded each piece. It was much like the excitement in the scene from "A Christmas Story" when a mailman delivers the "major prize" to Mr. Parker.
I was around seven years old - the same age as my daughter is now.  Much like my daughter, I was curious about the drawers and tiny cupboards that lined the interior.  My Grandma was so proud of it.  She placed the desk in their very too-small-for-more-furniture-living room where she could see it everyday.  She used to write letters, make out bills, and keep track of her prized genealogy records at that desk.  The drawers underneath housed sets of playing cards with puppies on them, as well as the highly coveted "Book of Hoyle" - which was consulted when we needed a refresher on the rules of "Fan Tan" or "Canasta."
Soon after my Grandmother received the desk, she allowed me to complete some first grade homework on it.   And soon after that, a hard plastic protector was added to the desktop.  I can still see the capital K's unintentionally engraved into the otherwise pristine desktop.  Later, it was moved to the back of the house to the area we all called the "sun room."  Grandma still used it daily and would regularly tromp to the back of the house to retrieve some random piece of information or to sit there and write a letter to far away relatives with her Cursive Script Typewriter - another piece of Americana not often seen anymore.
Well, it seems that this is the first time my daughter noticed this desk - a piece of furniture that has been in plain sight her entire life.  She was carefully inspecting each drawer when she came across a "shiny sword."  Several letter openers along with a sealing wax stamp caught her eye.
"What is this??  This looks very dangerous!"
I explained how each of the tools were used, but not without having a flashback memory of my Grandma tearing through all of her mail - always using the letter opener emblazoned with a coat of arms labeled "Sharingham."   Not sure where it came from or how it came into her possession, but it always seemed very fancy to me.  My daughter continued her archaeological dig through the desk and I sat alongside of her explaining and telling stories.  Finally, she opened the tiny cupboard that is ornately carved with what seems to be rays of sunshine.  I have always kept a photo of my grandmother in that cupboard.  The photo was taken long before my time.  She was probably about the age I am now - maybe a little older.  In the photo, she is wearing a navy pencil skirt and a crisp white blouse.  She is standing in her driveway in front of a 1960s car, with her hand on her hip, looking straight into the camera with a beautiful smile across her face.  My Maya stared at the photo for a moment and then said, "I bet you keep her in here so that you can talk to her when you miss her - it's kind of a secret between you and her... right, Mom?"
"Well... I guess it is, sort of."
Then she leaned into me real close and whispered, "When I grow up, Mom, I'm going to keep a picture of you and Nana in here. Shhh...don't tell anyone".
These are my favorite kind of secrets - the kind that send love from one generation to the next.