The pieces call to me and I must respond. They call me into attics and basements, to trash bins and curbs. Friends and family drop them off. Small wooden tables, chairs and stools, boxes and shelves. Often covered with dust or mold, chipped and warped, I can see their deeper selves shining through. I can feel their potential, their possibilities, their hope. So I pick up my sander, my wood glue, my paint brush and I begin to play. I never work on new pieces. They don’t need me or want me. Fresh new wooden pieces have their own journey. They will find me soon enough in this throw-away world.
I was not raised during the Great Depression but my Irish/Welsh ancestors were. Consequently, I grew up rinsing out used plastic bags and rinsing off used aluminum foil. My first husband broke me of the aluminum foil habit, but I still rinse out zip lock bags, turn them inside out, and hang the on the tall, narrow jars in the pantry to dry - looking like tiny slim ghosts having a standoff.
Growing up, my family tent-camped for several weeks every summer. As a child I automatically sorted the garbage into - what goes into the camp fire and what is recycled by the weekly trash truck that came through the campgrounds.
My mother made sleeping bags for my sister and me out of our father’s old Navy Pea Coats and she lined them with disassembled and reassembled real fur cast-off coats and muffs from the local Thrift Stores. It was so exotic to sleep outdoors on soft, shinny furs that had been rescued from a vastly different experience.
Like bringing them back where they began. Where they belonged.
When my first son was young, as a single mom, we scoured junk yards to find bicycle parts and triumphantly built him a beautiful multicolored bicycle. We learned the hard way that there are actually right and left peddles, but once we got that down there wasn’t a hill in the neighborhood he couldn’t take.
In addition to my furniture rescue, I now collect old abandoned quilts; hand sewn creative fabric stories of love and life from the past. I re-mend them, add a wild new border, fluffy new stuffing and quietly deliver them to adults and children who need a soft, unconditional hug.
Thou I am often saddened by the sight of an abandoned quilt or tossed out wooden stool, chair, or table, I can also see the beauty and value in spite of stains and tears, beyond broken legs, and beneath scratches and bruises. I can see their Second Chance.
Here we highlight featured stories from the archive, contributions by fellow writers and artists, as well as reflections and comments on the value and impact of discarded objects in our world.