The old white table

January 12, 2007

We’ve had a pair of little white tables that have been sturdy and useful, but a bit hideous with who know who many layers of paint on them. The paint has been chipping off the legs and the table top, and the poor thing has been begging to be stripped. Today being a beautiful cool and sunny day, I decided to strip the top and leave the sides and legs the putty-white it already is. There were some 5 layers of paint and I felt a bit like an archeologist tracing it all back through the years. I was certain the purple layer was the late 60s, harvest gold early 60s, muted grey 70s, and the tasteful 80s layer was putty white. Underneath all of the paint were layers of murky varnish and stain some amateur applied over the years.

I continued to strip the layers back until it seemed I was down to the wood. I started to do a light sand to the surface, and like magic, strange scrawlings appeared. There was also a strange gauge along the side that was filled with more paint. I carefully carved out the old paint with a plastic pick and then I realized what it was: it was an old school desk. The gauge was where the pencils went. The mysterious compartment beneath was obviously where the books went. And the mysterious cuneiforms were children’s writing. It occurred to me that all these children are very likely dead or else very senior. Most of scrawls were just writing that got pressed through paper onto a young wood–number 3 pencils, tough leads! Then, with age, layers of dirt, sweaty little hands, varnish, and paint, those scribblings disappeared––until today.


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