The Bench

Last Saturday I was just feeling the need to get out for a bit, the weather was beautiful, and I just wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t home, a common feeling for many of us in the last year. So, we decided to take a little drive to Sutter Creek, saunter through the cute little shops, have a bit of lunch and head for home. We arrived, put our name on a list at a restaurant where they told us they would call us when our table was ready and off, we went masks in place to wander through the little shops of Sutter Creek.

          We made our way up to the vintage garden store I love at the top of the street. Having found some old pieces of wood we talked over some ideas for their use and tried to find the prices but the owner and had just left and the woman managing the store didn’t know how much the pieces were, so we left our name and number and moved onto to a new store across the street.

The store was so charming, as I moved into the large room where the woman who owned the shop was standing behind the checkout counter that’s when I saw it an all-wood beautiful hall tree in my color of teal. It had all the elements I had been searching for and the price was unbelievably reasonable. It was beautiful. I had been playing with the idea of trading out the bench and other pieces I used to create an entry way in our little rental house, some of these pieces have been in the last 7 places we lived. The white bench and other pieces were washed out in this rental with walls the color of chewed gum. But thinking about this kind of change and making this kind of change is a big deal for someone like me. I keep the same furniture and accessories for 25 or 30 years. And now the possibility was staring me in the face. We touched it, asked questions about how it was made and just kept looking at it. Then Tim’s phone buzzed, and it was time to go eat, I asked the woman who owned the shop how late would she be open, and she said until 6:00 pm and we thanked her for her time.

We took our seat at the table and looked at the menus and listened to the loud talking all around us, we were in Amador county and this restaurant had in door dining with the tables distanced so there was no one close to us even so it was still pretty loud, I think people may have forgotten how to act in restaurants, you are not at home where you can just yell into the kitchen or other rooms to get people’s attention. We ordered our food and started talking about the hall tree and my little white bench. Through tears I talked about the possibility of getting rid of the bench and said that is not something I can just take to goodwill or put up for sale on whatever site I could make some money. This bench has history, our family history and all the notches and marks are connected to so many events, moves and moments in our lives.

          I bought the bench for the rental house we lived in on Stoughton Way in Sacramento in the mid 90’s. We had a pony wall in the kitchen that opened into the Den and I wanted the kids to have some place to stand and talk to me when I was cooking. 6-year-old Taylor and I had many philosophical life conversations while he stood on the bench and I cooked dinner.  One of my favorites was when he asked me how he would know when and who to marry. I planted all the right seeds for thought and then he asked me if he could live with us after he got married and I laughed and said that when he was grown up and married, he would want to live in his own house and then he asked if he could live next door and I said of course, and the irony is he now lives across the Country. But I can still see his cute face looking so serious and talking to me about all these serious things…standing on the bench…my little while bench.

The bench I found at Pier 1 on clearance and even on clearance I agonized over the price. But felt so victorious when I finally brought it home.  The bench that has held back packs of various sizes, and a collection of purses and most recently diaper bags, shoes, and other paraphernalia belonging to the 4 Grands. It has been the piece of furniture that greeted us as we returned from somewhere and the place, we put things as we were preparing to leave, and it bears the marks of holding all those things.

Mychal and Allison have just moved into their own apartment with the girls after having lived with Allison’s parents for more than 2 years and I thought maybe they would like the bench for their cute little balcony. So, I sent a quick text to both, and Mychal responded with “OH” I think he thought I would never give that up but then I sent a question mark and he answered right away “Yes!” they wanted it and not long after Allison responded with a resounding yes also. As we were texting back and forth Mychal called the bench an heirloom and I made sure Allison knew I had bought it at Pier 1 and wasn’t sure if that qualified as an heirloom or not but Myke said once it gets passed from one generation to the next it is an heirloom.

I loved that they wanted it and It made moving forward with the new piece even more doable. I was still a bit teary and indecisive when the biggest sandwich ever was served to Tim and that made me laugh and I was taking pictures and he was trying to figure out how to eat it. We walked back to the shop and looked again at the new piece and I just couldn’t leave it there. Funny how once I knew the bench had a home, it removed the excuses to not move forward.

We brought it home and moved the bench into the guest room and put the new hall tree in its place and realized that the basket that held blankets and was also about 25 years old didn’t work with the new piece. And the all-white hat rack that I have had for at least 15 years wasn’t going to work either. One change often requires more change doesn’t it?

Now decisions about these treasured pieces had to be made.

The basket there was no salvaging it had to be replaced. It probably should have been replaced long ago because getting the blankets in and out of it required a bit of a wrestling match. I found a new black wire basket at Target that was perfect, a really different style for me yet somehow totally me, now.

 But the white hat rack just needed to be reimagined with a coat of flat matte black paint which transformed the piece, there was dimension and character in the old hat rack that hadn’t been there in white. This is the dance of change something brand new requires the removal of some things but just the reimagining of others.

This is the dynamic of change whether it is change that is sought, forced or just the natural next step, it brings with it the push and pull of loving what has been but wanting to move forward with what could be. A single change is often multifaceted in the ripple effect it creates but like my entryway once all the changes have been made the new is often even more than we had hoped it would be.

          I was on spring break last year when we got the announcement that we would not be returning to school after break, and this was the beginning of all the changes to come because of the pandemic and like dominoes one thing affected the other. Some things had to be discarded completely (like big stadium events) and other things had to be reimagined (like schools) but all around with each wave of challenge that 2020 brought change was the constant and the norm not the unusual. Cultural upheaval, political upheaval, workplace fluidity, personal loss, challenge and change too. And now in 2021 as the vaccines roll out and the numbers of those getting COVID drops, and more and more people survive we are going to face a wave of a change again.

          We will say we are returning to what was, back to normal and back to the life we miss but are we? Can we ever return to who we were before 2020? Can return to that life and that sensibility ever again? We are not just moving on, how could we? We have learned things and seen things and experienced things we never anticipated and that has changed us. In some ways for the better or not I guess that is up to us.

          I don’t want to return to who I was before 2020 because I learned to lean into my faith and relationship with the God in new ways and I learned the level of resiliency I have. How creative I became and the courage that it took to stay grounded to what I know is true. The self-control it took to not engage in ridiculous online rhetoric but to walk, pray and think about what was going on around me. To speak life to those around me and to know that like so many other things in my life God was with me and that He would carry me to the other side and that I would arrive just as He planned in the way he crafted just for me.

Tim spent the last couple of days putting a clear coat onto the white bench so it could sit on the kids little balcony and I helped him load it into my car I thought about how cute it is and what was I thinking letting it go…it is the humanity in us to look back and feel for a moment longing for what has been, change is still hard even when it is wanted…but then I walked into the house and looked at the new entry way that works better for this house, for our needs now and felt joy. The little white bench will have a new place and be used in the way my kids and grand girls decide and I have a new entryway much better suited to this house.

          It is the valuing what has been and moving forward into what will be that makes the most sense. I think it is important to do that with this last year from March 2020 to March 2021. Value what this time has taught us, the work it did in us be ready for the adjustments of the next phase of moving life forward. Not exactly back to what it was because that is gone forever but valuing what mattered from before and bringing it into moving forward while accepting what was can never be again but what will be new and with new comes possibility.