One artifact that I brought out of childhood into my current age is a maple three drawer bureau. My parents took me to the furniture store, our first shopping expedition together. When they chose this bureau I was disappointed, but they bought it anyway. It reminded me of our well-worn maple kitchen table & chairs. In writing this, I realize it was only the second piece of furniture they bought together after they got bedroom furniture. We were an immigrant family and lived in an extended household, so there was no ‘new flat’ to set up.
The bureau stayed with me for most of my life despite several attempts to offload it. It came back! Underwear and pajamas in the top drawer, shirts, and pants in the second, and best clothes for special times in the bottom drawer. I’d hide poems I wrote from my mom under the paper lining in the drawers, and when she cleaned ( she must have been some cleaner) she’d find them, no matter which drawer they were hidden in.
I got married when I was twenty-one years old and happily left this bureau behind.I was finally done with the purchase I had never wanted. Six years later I was pregnant and began to gather baby furniture. Aunt Delores gave me her no longer needed crib and an old carriage. I found a changing table someplace, and finally, I retrieved the old maple dresser, grudgingly. It was kind of a campy furniture piece by now, old-fashioned. But it was solid maple, and I found nothing that was constructed as well. I stocked baby clothes & diapers in it, put a small lamp & music box on the top. The baby, Jenny, learned how to crawl out of the crib onto the top of the bureau when she was two. She didn’t go far. Jenny just sat there waiting to be lifted off, and I moved the bureau across the room.
A couple of years later my husband & I separated. When I ‘floated’ for some months looking for a place to live the bureau returned to its house of origin to be stored, right back to the same unused sun porch I used to sleep in. It remained there during the summer as I worked at several conference centers, and sought permanent work and housing. Finally, I found a regular job and a new home. We picked up the maple bureau and other furniture. It became my daughter’s bureau then until she went away to college. It came back into my use then.
Now I admire how its made—solid wooden draws dovetailed together. It no longer holds clothes. Rather, it holds other necessary things. The top drawer holds checkbooks, extra pens, an extension cord, and office supplies. The second draw holds frankincense, myrrh, dragon’s blood, and similar chunks of incense, along with charcoal and a variety of candles. There’s also some organic tobacco and other items that might be handy for making ones own incense blend for some unusual reason, pearls to be ground up, cornsilk, and such. There are quartz pebbles I’ve saved to make a set of rune stones. The last draw seems to be leftovers. Things that don’t fit into other categories, but are important enough to save even if I don’t remember what they are. This bureau lasted longer than anyone else I’ve lived with, has outlasted both my parents and has always accepted anything I’ve handed her without a comment.She now holds far more memories than all the clothes that were ever folded into the drawers.
This bureau stayed with me to childhood, adult life that included becoming homeless, divorced, moving to a different area, bringing up a child to adulthood. Until I wrote this piece, I hadn’t appreciated the constant presence it had in my life. Even when I had lost many belongings, this bureau kept returning. I’d love to hear from folks that have had ‘accidental companions’ like this, some artifact that has stayed with you, and perhaps a paragraph about it. For example, when Dana was born, I gave him a snowman stuffed animal. When I spoke to Dana just before he went off to college this fall, I qas quite surprised to hear how precious that snowman was to him, and it still remains in his closet. He shared that it’s one of his most precious things from childhood, and shared a story about it. I’d love to hear your stories, from all over the world.