What I found inside this old white dresser

The white dresser sits, freshly painted, below a perfectly-spaced congregation of blue and white porcelain plates.

The plates, which belonged to my paternal grandmother hover delicately above the dresser, which belonged to my maternal grandmother — except then, it wasn’t painted white.

Then, it was a wood veneer — a pretty, deep rosewood color — but age and time and living (it sat in the living room after all) had chipped away at the top layer and by the time it made its way to me decades later, I thought: “You know, that would look really great painted white.” And so we asked the painters who were painting the cabinets of my in laws’ house nearby if they wouldn’t mind terribly if we added a bit more wood to the mix. They graciously obliged. And the rest is history.

History, of course, is what the dresser is all about. And if I kneel down and place my entire head inside the cabinet door on the right, it smells like the old brick house where my Grandma made scrambled eggs and the farm dogs slept on a hot summer porch. Like the closet to Narnia, the little cabinet transports me out of time to the very place where a not-so-old woman in blue house shoes put linens in those drawers before me.

Before me — after me — the generations are a reminder that it’s not really about me at all. A reminder of how we are all part of something bigger; the dresser was passed to me, I paint it, and I pass it on. Like all that is passed down from one generation to the next, we use what is gifted to us with, God-willing, grace and gratitude and then, we share it. Not just dressers — but faith, love, wisdom. Sometimes there are chips that need to be filled in, edges that need to be repainted, stories that need to be repeated. Sometimes we just need to inhale the air of an old cabinet and remember (or close the door and move on.)

The white dresser is wearing week-old paint and decades-old hardware. It cradles linens that match the liturgical year — ready to be pulled out and parachuted over the handmade farm table (made by my husband and brother-in-law) when the occasion arises. It is as much a conversation piece as it is storage, and I have decided that the conversation is really the greatest utility that comes from it. Sure, it holds stuff — but its value is less in the space for place mats, but rather, the room for memories. It holds the smell of Christmas-past. The stories of grandparents passed away. The reminder that I stand on the shoulders of many-a-strong mothers who dressed tables and babies that grew to dress tables and babies.

The paint is already chipped, mind you. That big drawer at the bottom is a doozy and gets stuck easily when you try to push it in and it’s made its mark. Kate likes to hide in the little space between the dresser and the wall and play drums on it. My 1-year-old likes the noise the floppy handles make when you lift them up and then — snap! — drop them. There will be more chips and scratches and that’s all good, too. It’s all part of the story of a dresser turned timed capsule turned hiding space that simply fits in where it’s needed.

And who knows — maybe in 60 years, my own granddaughter will stand with a cup of coffee in the morning light before it and say, “You know, that would look really great painted red.”


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