Next month, Paige and her roommates are moving into a house not far from the Texas Tech campus. I can't believe they are ditching a brand-new, four-bedroom, four-bath apartment with a lovely pool and fully equipped gym for a rickety old house, but when was college ever about being sensible?
Unlike the apartment, the house does not come furnished. Also unlike the apartment, the house comes with a gameroom that has a built-in bar, but I highly doubt the room has ever functioned in that capacity. Most college kids don't care where they hang their hat --- my older son lived in a dining room, complete with a crystal chandelier, and the younger one bunked in an RV for two weeks --- but I did hold out hope that my darling daughter was more discerning, that maybe she had a little class. So much for class: THIS is going to be her bedroom. On the bright side, the bar with its large mirror and hot and cold running water will make a dandy vanity.
As I said, the house does not come furnished. I told Paige if she thought I was going to outfit her with a brand-new bedroom suite, she was nuts. I will spring for a new bed frame and a mattress set, but everything else will be second-hand stuff, most of it scrounged from cast-offs in my mother's garage: an end table, a small dining room sideboard that belonged to my grandmother, and an upholstered chair in a nice, neutral color. She's also getting the tall chest of drawers we bought for that long ago baby nursery, that I hung onto for some unfathomable reason.
It's a hodge-podge of stuff, so to pull it together, I bullied Richard into helping me strip and refinish the wood pieces. We've done this before, but it's been years. Like 20.
In 1993, Richard's Aunt Dorothy called to say she was moving, and that her new apartment was too small to accommodate her dining room suite, a set that originally belonged to her mother. Would we like to have it? Would we ever! At the time our house was new and we had an empty formal dining room just begging to be filled. So, being young and cash poor, we jumped at her offer. A week later, Richard and his dad rented a U-Haul and drove to Tyler, in east Texas, to load up our possessions. I remember watching the clock all that afternoon, anxious for them to get home so I could see my new swag.
Welp...to say I was disappointed is an understatement. The two sideboards and the china cabinet were in tolerable shape, albeit some missing hardware. The chairs were upholstered in crushed gold velvet that was so thin, it was like Kleenex, but that could be easily fixed. It was the table that threw cold water all over the homecoming celebration; the very thing that makes a dining room a dining room. It was covered with stuck on fuzz from an old tablecloth. I'm not sure how that happened, but my best guess is that Dorothy must have waxed the table's surface, threw on the tablecloth, and time, heat and humidity did the rest: the wax broke down and caused the cloth to adhere to the table. When Richard ripped it off (literally), it left a fine layer of fuzz behind, like a billiards table. And if that wasn't bad enough, we discovered spiders and spider egg sacs under and behind all the pieces, and so everything had to be hauled back outside, hosed off and dried. I like spiders, but these were the little bitty ones that make me feel itchy.
My FIL could tell I was not happy. Bless his heart, as he tried to inject a positive spin on things, I was trying vainly to find some nice way to say, Thanks, but no thanks. How do you tell your FIL his mother's furniture is butt ugly? That was when Richard declared that we would have the pieces refinished:
Richard: We'll have everything stripped and refinished.
Me: You're crazy. We can't afford that.
Richard: I meant we'll do it ourselves.
Me: You're crazy. We don't know how.
Richard: We'll learn.
Me: You're crazy.
Richard called his BIL, an antiques buff who had done his share of refinishing old furniture, and got step-by-step instructions. And before I knew what was happening, our garage was converted into a kind of furniture factory, and we began the hot, sweaty, smelly and arduous process of stripping and refinishing all ten pieces of the dining room suite.
And we didn't stop, no siree. Extremely pleased with the fruits of our labors, we stripped and refinished a few other antiques: my mother's old desk from her college days, a round table that is another relic from my grandmother, and a small chest of drawers. Richard actually rescued the latter from our neighbors' bulk trash pile one night. He saw potential. I saw a cheap, god-awful little chest, and a husband who had quite obviously suffered brain damage from the weeks spent immersed in chemical fumes. Once it was completely refinished and new drawer pulls installed, it became cheap chic and the husband was hailed a hero. Just goes to show how one man's trash can be, with a little elbow grease, another's treasure.
If you are interested in taking on such a project, but aren't sure what to do, please go to my blog under the Construction Zone tab above.
Laying it all bare,
Get notified of new content! Enter your email address in the space below to get started...