Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Praise of Hand-Me-Downs

Isn't this a spectacular piece of furniture?  It's an antique oak sideboard that we had in our dining room when I was growing up, and it was handed down to me (along with a huge antique oak table and matching chairs) from my mom when she and my father sold our old house and downsized many years ago.

Let me say for the record that I LOVE hand-me-downs.  This is one of my favorite pieces of furniture, not just because it's beautiful and functional, but because it reminds me of my youth every time I look at it.  I have vivid memories of leaning on it, with my elbows on the surface and the extension cord of the phone stretched as far as I could make it go without breaking it, fiddling with the knickknacks on it and trying to have a wee bit of privacy while I talked to my boyfriend in hushed tones.

We kids didn't have telephones in our bedrooms at my house.  (We weren't the Kennedys, after all!)  And of course, iPhones and cell phones--and even gigantic portable phones like they used on "Seinfeld"--were gadgets out of some futuristic "Jetsons" world.  (Well, now I've dated myself, haven't I?)  Back then, we had clunky, rotary-dialed phones, and they were located either on a table near an outlet or on the wall.  During my high school years, our family's phone was mounted on the wall just inside the doorway to the kitchen/family room area that was at the back of our house.  Right next to that area was the formal dining room.  So when my boyfriend called and I wanted to talk to him away from the prying eyes and ears of my family, I stretched the extension cord into the dining room (trying to close the door behind me as best I could), and the cord was only long enough to get as far as this antique sideboard.  So that's what this lovely piece of furniture is to me: a sort of phone booth; the place where I stood as a starry-eyed teenager and talked to the boy of my dreams (the same boy who ended up becoming my husband).

Thinking about those phone calls really brings back memories.  There were five kids in my family, and we were so close in age that we were all teenagers at the same time.  My poor father!  The phone business drove him absolutely bonkers.  We kids were always on the phone--and since this was well before call waiting had arrived on the scene, our line was always busy, and there was nothing to be done about it short of calling the police to say there was an emergency so they could break in on the line.  If I had a nickel for every time my dad threatened to put a pay phone in the house for us kids, I would be a rich woman today.

I do love hand-me-downs.  They have a history to them that makes them so much more special than brand spanking new pieces of furniture picked out on a showroom floor.  This hand-me-down sideboard represents a very special time in my life, when I was experiencing the euphoria of my first true love.  When every time the phone rang and I picked it up and heard my boyfriend's voice, my heart went pitter-pat...and then I disappeared, with the receiver glued to my ear, into the dining room!

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