Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trepidation; Elation

I feel like I’ve fallen behind in posting, but then I do realize that the only expectations here are my own. It’s my blog; I can do what I want with it. Somehow, though, I feel like it’s gotten away from me. My posts are feeling like articles or research papers, instead of, say, the real thoughts in my head.

For about three decades, now, I’ve kept a journal, so writing about my day, my thoughts, my “here is where I am right now,” is indeed the only form of writing I feel truly qualified to attempt; thus so much of my blog here is a tangent, a lark.

I honestly don’t know nuthin’ about cooking—I’ve never even taken a basic home ec class. I don’t know nuthin’ about science—I defer all definitive statements to the specialists. I’m not an authority on Missouri: I grew up here; I left; I came back. But I always feel woefully lacking in an understanding of its history and landscapes. As for Jefferson City, I am a total fraud: I come from across the river, from the rival town and ultra-rival school. I only decided to start learning about this place when I moved here a decade ago. I’m a Columbian, by birth and by culture—that means I’ll never really be accepted here.

But I do know how to tell you what’s going on right now. I’m sitting on our recently repaired sunporch, and the late-afternoon sun is slicing in. Patches, the original Opulent Opossum, is lying in the middle of the soft new carpet, on her back, her hind legs in the air, snoozing as only she can do.

It’s one of those early cool days in September, when the pleasant north breeze is still a surprise, because you’re still expecting the Missouri summertime steam bath. It will take several more days like this before our bodies begin to accept that autumn is really here.

Well, it seems that way to me.


Here’s the big news today: We said goodbye to two elderly, beat-up chairs and a sofa. But it’s only temporary—when we see them again, around the end of October (I understand), they will be transformed into elegant, fine furniture fit for high society: We’re getting them reupholstered (and repaired, and refinished).

Here’s the history: The sofa is the one Grandma S always had in her living room . . . well, until Aunt Minnie got sick and moved in with Grandma, and her (nicer) sofa was placed into the living room. Grandma’s older sofa, more beat up, was demoted to the sunporch, where it’s been since Aunt Minnie got sick—when was that? The late seventies?

Here’s a picture of Aunt Min sitting on Grandma’s sofa; back in the good ol’ days. Christmas ’75, I think.

Hmmm. I’ve always liked the old sofa—good memories, good vibes.

And one of the chairs—a “wingback” chair with nice soft arms—had long been my favorite place to sit when visiting Grandma. The fabric was a satiny damask, soft and cool, and I don’t know . . . just comfortable. When it was time to sit down and talk, I’d make a beeline for that chair.

Please understand that I’m not insane with nostalgia; when Grandma died and auctioneers were brought in to tote away everything that could possibly be valuable enough to sell—and my parents and uncles and aunts encouraged us to keep the stuff we wanted—I held back.

It’s a difficult social calculation: Would I appear greedy if I prevented something valuable from being sold and adding to the estate, just because I “want” it? If I let something be sold that really should be kept in the family for the next generation, then am I being blind, or callous? Would I appear greedy if I held on to such a thing, for that reason?

We kept things that seemed heirloom-ish, like the china cabinet, like the table. We kept some furniture and other objects just because we knew we would use them.

Understand: when they sell stuff at estate auctions, most of it goes for very cheap, sadly cheap; I couldn’t feel very guilty for keeping things that might sell for twenty dollars, for which I would have to spend a hundred to replace.

Anyway, there was another category of Grandma’s old possessions: Ones that the auctioneer rolled his eyes at and explained were worthless. The sofa and two old chairs we’re having reupholstered fit into this category. “They’re not even worth carting away.”

They were in sad shape. Poor old sofa; it will have to be disassembled and put back together. The chairs, pretty much, too. Our upholsterer helped me to feel better about it: Never were these pieces of furniture abused—they were simply worn out. Fabric ages; springs push through their bindings. It happens after, oh, several decades of use.

Yes, it will cost us some money. We’ve already purchased the fabric, which of course is no cheap thing right there. And the fabric for the sofa came from a store in St. Louis—so you can add the cost of travel to the expenses.

But I think we’ve been showered with luck, if my instincts and this fellow’s estimate are correct. We had gotten an estimate for the chairs a few years ago, and the prices from that fellow were completely beyond what we could pay. We were heartbroken; the sofa, of course, would have been impossible, if the chairs were already far too high.

We threw a big canvas sheet over the sofa, to hide its thousand imperfections. And the chairs sat in the basement. We considered putting the chairs out by the side of the road, so they could dematerialize, one way that many household items find “new homes” here in Jeff.

But I couldn’t bear to do it. You might as well have asked me to leave a box of kittens by a busy highway.

Then, earlier this year, a chance conversation with an acquaintance introduced this new fellow, who is supposed to do fabulous work and have surprisingly low rates.

I finally got around to calling him; he came over, prepared an estimate for us, told us how much fabric to buy, told us he wouldn’t be able to start until early September. And meanwhile, it has taken us this time to select and procure the fabrics—which brought us to today.

Of course, it is more complicated that that—we had to disassemble one wall of our screened porch in order to get the sofa out of the house and down the back porch steps. And you know that kind of thing is easier said than done.

But we did it, and we got it all put back (need to touch up some paint now—one thing leads to another). And so here I sit, looking at this room without the sofa. So strange.

I’m slightly fearful—what if this upholsterer is horrible? What if we’re appalled, and then still have to pay for the work? We’ll be kicking ourselves: Should have checked references! Should have asked to see some of his work!

. . . But sometimes you just trust. My friend said he does good work; and the price was indeed very doable for us. For the cost of buying a fine new sofa and two fine new chairs, we are resuscitating some of my favorite furniture in the world, with fabrics that do them justice, fabrics I’m in love with.

Yes, there’s some trepidation—but there’s also anticipation. I think we’re going to be very pleased in another month and a half.

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