Thinking ahead to the holidays, house sprucing up has commenced. As I placed an interesting old stool in the boy’s bathroom, I was met with the realization that my boys just don’t share my decorating taste. “Um, Mom, why did you put an old stool in there?” questioned 11-year-old Jamison. “It is just old looking.” I offered an explanation, “It has character and offers you a place to sit.” “Completely unnecessary,” Austin, my teenager, determined. “Just fluff.” Then my oldest informs me that he, “doesn’t like old stuff,” and “his house will have shiny, clean, new things.” I remind myself that he has never had to buy furniture, and at 14 I have time to change his mind.
Being frugal and in sprucing mode, my parents offered me the ultimate barn find. I was told about an antique Duncan Phyfe dining table that would offer us a bigger dining table to accommodate visitors at Thanksgiving. This new development also offered an opportunity for me to get my “lounging in summer coma” children involved. The barn doors flew open and Popsy pointed with his cane where it was. The boys and I, carefully watching our steps, moved some boxes, and gasped. For me it was love at first sight, but the boys took some convincing. Spider webs, layers of dust, basic gunk, and unattached brass-toed table legs, only added to its beauty in my eyes. I was in love the minute I spied the 3-legged pedestals and the amount of work it would take to make them beautiful. Austin and Jamison’s immerging boy muscles were a wonderful help in retrieving the new gem as we heaved it out of the barn. “I don’t want to eat food off that,” Jamison surmised. “Just you wait,” my mouth salivated at the opportunity to show them real beauty. “It will just take some elbow grease, and I happen to have 4 elbows right here.” Austin and Jamison rolled their eyes and grimaced.
Popsy would take the boys down to the barn wherever he grabbed a minute and instruct them the proper way to sand down the previous finish. With red hands and sweat soaked faces they complained about the amount of work they were doing on an “old, broken-down table.” Coats of varnish were applied and then steel wool was used to remove imperfections. The tedious process took several days when eventually a decision was reached by the boys to make the table not have a shiny finish. They raided John’s tools for an electric drill where Austin cautiously attached the legs. Somehow power tools seemed to ease his refinishing boredom, as he mock quoted the Karate Kid movie saying with, “Varnish it on. Steel wool it off.”
I demonstrated how to apply polishing compound and wax, the same way Popsy showed me many years ago. After a few hours Austin and Jamison explained that they were “plum tabled out” and I could sense a rebellion if they were not allowed to do something else.
Several days later and more coats of wax than I can count, the finish was just what I wanted: smooth, clean, with a matte, mahogany finish. The boys suddenly became very interested when they realized that the table was finally finished, with constant comments about how “great their project turned out” and satisfied looks on their faces. The rest of the day we moved furniture and placed our “new” dining table in its dining room spot.
We had our first meal on the “new” dining room table and the boys lost no opportunity in pointing out to Mimi all of the work they had done on this now “beautiful table.” Then an odd question arose about inheritances and Austin asked particularly about furniture. I reminded him that he said he didn’t like “barn-tiques” and wanted “new, shiny furniture.” A smile spread across his face and he commented that he had poured work and sweat into the table and perhaps he would like to have it one day. I smiled a little smugly thinking that I had finally reached my child, and he saw the beauty in furniture that he worked on and put energy into. “Happy you finally understand how unique and special a piece of furniture can be.” I smiled, pleased.
“You know, on ‘Antiques Roadshow’ they say that you can get major money for furniture that comes up at auctions.” Austin says with a gleam. Just as soon, his gleam diminished when he remembered a four inch long, black, burn mark on the table that I didn’t let him sand out. “It would be worth more without that mark,” he commented. “Yes, it probably would. But my great-grandfather left his cigar on the table too long after dinner one night. To me that black mark is worth so much more.” As he turned to walk out of the dining room, I saw an understanding smile, a slight nod of the head, and a finger reach up to trace the mark in the table.