My good old desk, squeaks and all

In 1956, when my older sister and I were children, we came down the stairs on Christmas morning to find matching pine desks and chairs handmade by our father. Barb had ceased believing in elves by then, but she didn't spoil my own fantasies about my desk's journey from a polar workshop far removed from our own basement.

By the time I discovered Dad's name and the date stamped under the bottom drawer, I, too, was wise to the world - or at least to the realities of Christmas. It was well-made furniture that saw us from grammar through graduate school and beyond. Only the contents of the drawers changed: in my case, from such things as a postcard collection, marbles, colored pencils, and paints, to geology reprints, Brunton compass, rock lens, adolescent attempts at poetry, and love letters (under everything else).

After marriage we brought our desks to our respective homes, where we used them to correspond, pay bills, and run households, all of which seemed to perfectly suit their simple utilitarian souls. Eventually our children took them over, but neither of us once considered letting them out of our sight.

I came close. My son Tim, lacking my reverence for the familiar swirls of grain on the desk's writing surface, embellished it with scratches, nail holes, splotches of paint, and a few impressive gouges during his very active tenure in the little chair.

When Tim graduated to a larger desk to accommodate a full-size computer, we carried my battered old friend down to the basement, its drawers still chock full of boyhood. I thought tentatively of taking it to Goodwill, but I could not bring myself to act.

In fact, each time I passed the desk reposing there under the pipes, I felt the same old pull to it I had as a young girl. Finally, one day after Tim had moved to his own apartment, I took the time to answer, emptying his booty into plastic storage boxes, washing and wiping the drawers (the top left one has squeaked for 50 years, and I wouldn't think of fixing it), and wiping every surface - yup, there was Dad's name again. Then I brought my desk back up into the light of day.

It can't accommodate a full-size computer, but it is the perfect size for my laptop, which is easily shut and pushed away when I want to get back to the basics of pen (or colored pencil) on paper, roll a marble over the newly refurbished surface, or just sit and stare out the window - as I used to after a tour around the United States with my postcard collection.

Now and then I open that top left drawer just to hear it squeak.

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