The first time I saw her, she was hiding in the corner.
“Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” I whispered with a chuckle, walking over to greet her. The bargain hunters passed by as I stood there, making introductions.
A conversation with a second-hand desk.
She was middle-aged – born sometime in the late 1950s — and you could tell that she’d been through some “stuff.” But she spoke to me, as if to say, “Honey, you and I are much alike. We could be good friends, and, oh, the stories we could tell.”
For several months, I had been looking for a writing desk – THE writing desk – but no matter how many times I had convinced myself that I had found the right one, my purchase was stopped short. I either couldn’t see myself spending the money or time to fix it up, or I simply couldn’t imagine spending hours of time seated at it, writing the story that popped into my head at 2 a.m. No, the desk had to fit. It had to be the encouraging friend that was able to coax me out of the mental and physical rut in which I’d found myself of late. We had to understand each other.
I didn’t quite have the funds needed to purchase her that day, and honestly, that was an easy excuse to bring an end to our visit – and prolong my unwillingness to take a chance that she could, perhaps, be the one to help me. I patted her gently, not caring if the other browsers were watching our intimate encounter, and said my goodbye. This was becoming a pattern. A frustrating one at that.
Over the next month, I thought of her often, wondering if she, like several others, had been scooped up by someone who was more comfortable taking risks than I was. Had she been put on the back of a truck and driven to a new home where she had been shined up, only to become the latest item up for bid on eBay? Why had she been abandoned in the first place? She was beautiful – a bit older but still full of grace and class, standing tall on sturdy legs. Did her owner not see her youthful glow, hidden under the years of dust and fading stain, or did he grow tired of her as the years passed? The more I pondered, the more I wished I could visit her again.
Several weeks later, I learned that the antique shop was scheduled to close. Maybe… just maybe… she was still there. I walked slowly down the row of empty dealer booths, and there she was.
“Hi, Flossie,” I said without hesitation. She looked like a Flossie to me – I would call her “Flo” for short. Kinda’ made sense, you know? It sounded like “flow,” which was what I desperately needed to find in my writing.
So, the guys rolled her out front and helped load her in the car. She looked tired and had cobwebs wrapped around her dented and small, but sturdy, legs. “Don’t worry, Flossie. I’m going to fix you up just right,” I said as we made our way home. She responded with a creak as I rounded a curve.
I put her in the garage – this would be her home for the next few days as the transformation took place. Sanding and repainting furniture was something new to me, so I was a bit nervous about taking the first step. My father suggested an 80-grit sandpaper to remove the old stain and coating. Couldn’t help but chuckle as I put on the dust mask and goggles, grabbed the palm sander, and made the first pass. It felt like I was giving poor Flossie a much-needed facial, scrubbing away the dirt and grime of the day – or in this case – of nearly 60 years.
After two days of heavy sanding, accompanied by a few beers, some uplifting music, and a few rather “unladylike” words (impatience is a weakness), she was smooth and natural. She was beautiful just as she was, and I was considering nothing more than a light stain to enhance her natural features, but I had this overwhelming feeling that she was trying to say something to me. So, I put my ear close to her and listened.
“Make me bold. Make me flashy. I’m ready for people to take notice. I want to feel sexy. No more hiding behind this boring old stain that has covered me for all these years. It’s not me. I want to do something risky. Please help me.”
It was in that moment that I knew what she needed. Red paint.
The young lady at the paint store grinned and clapped with excitement as I told her what I was wanting to do. She had recently repainted a desk the same color. Picking out the right shade made me a bit anxious – what if it was too “this” or not enough “that?” When she handed me the sample card, and pointed at the square in the middle with a huge grin, I knew we were on to something. The paint sample’s name was “Showstopper.” Perfect.
Her first coat went on, and I felt a bit sick. It was a bright Pepto-Bismol pink. My heart sank. I felt as if I had let her down (and there was no way in hell that a pink desk would look good in the space I had chosen). Second coat, and I noticed a transformation beginning to take place. The pink was changing to a deeper red, and the gloss of the paint was starting to enhance the beautiful curves of her drawer handles. She was becoming exactly what the paint said she would – a showstopper.
For a bit of whimsy, my husband suggested painting her “legs” black. It made sense – every sassy lady who wears a red dress needs a good pair of black heels to complete the look.
Four coats of paint later, and she was transformed. No longer was she an overlooked antique shoved in the corner. Flossie was now a shiny, “new” desk – and the inspiration I needed.
Sometimes all we need is a good buffing down to our “real selves” to see our potential. It can be a tiring, risky, stressful, dirty process, but the end result can be transformative.
The two of us understand that. We are in for some good times together.