Friday, December 31, 2010

The Accumulation of a Century of Dust

A very old steamer trunk followed me home. It belonged to my paternal grandmother and quite possibly to her mother. My father remembers it as always being at the top of the stairs at the Riverside house when he was a child. It had stuff in it.

From the moment the building of the cozy cabin was announced my sister has been trying to unload the old and dusty steamer trunk on me. I always refused until now.

She had come into possession of the trunk by buying the house we grew up in. I remember it in the house when I was a kid. We kept stuff in it. As long as that house was in the family, things got abandoned there. People moved on more than they ever officially moved out.

The trunk moved with her when she bought another house on the other side of town. I wonder what else she found when that house was emptied and finally abandoned. She used the old steamer trunk as a coffee table in the new house for a while. Then it was placed in the foyer and used to keep stuff in.

I don’t know why she got tired of it and I don’t know why I finally said yes to taking it, except it looked like I could keep stuff in it and the cozy cabin is lacking in closets big time.

This trunk is old. The painted linen on the outside is scratched, faded and wearing thin. The wood slats are marred in multiple ways. The metal straps are rusty. White paint was dripped across it at some point in time. The lock is keyless. The linen lining the interior of the trunk is halfway home to dust. It is in dire need of restoration.

The old steamer trunk also came with a nice collection of dust bunnies, spider webs, hairballs and tiny bits of flotsam from multiple users. It had sat undisturbed in a corner of the entry hall for some time, a staging ground for stuff inside and on top.

The trunk was not going to enter my somewhat pristine new home without a good rub down. A hard dusting led to the vacuum. Looking close I saw dust balls wedged in the cracks between metal and wood. The top edges of the wood slats looked to have a centuries worth of dust embedded in the grain. I think it will need a real bath before it can be restored.

One more year has piled on top of all the years that came before. I don’t have much desire to rehash the newly finished year. It is like so much stuff inside an old steamer trunk left to gather dust.

Almost unknowingly our trunks get full and they get old. Every so often, by circumstance, by choice or the pressing passage of time, the trunk gets emptied. Maybe it even gets cleaned. Stuff is scattered to the winds and we can begin anew, freed from the past. Or so we think.

The old steamer trunk follows us home. It is home. It is me. I fill it back up with new stuff hoping for the best, but the past is never fully cleansed. It lingers in cracks and crevices, in the dust lacquered by tears and fog and time into the very grain of the wood.

That old trunk is in dire need of restoration.

The old steamer trunk is empty now. It has had a good scrubbing. The restoration is underway. When fully cleaned and with new paint, new fabric, new stain and looking kind of new – it is an old trunk and only getting older – it will be time to greet the new day and the new year. Then I can put new stuff in it.


Lola said...

Oh my, such a deep post. I cannot put into words here what feelings it has evoked. A deep sense of melancholy for the 2 periods to be connected. One cannot happen without the other.
You have a rare treasure, hold on tight.


Siria said...

Happy New Year Christopher! May 2011 bring you much happiness as you finally complete the cozy cabin and move in experiencing the joys of new home ownership. Love your post!

Anonymous said...

What a metaphor for life, Christopher. Are you sure you want to cover it with new? I might leave it, cleaned, to hold your stuff. The wrinkles and grey hair of age, to be worn proudly. We, and the trunk earned that right. Happy New Year to you, my friend! :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Frances. All that you see has seen the passage of time and of people. I love seeing and touching things that belonged to those who lived long before.

Marlene said...

I so enjoy your blog every day, but had to comment today. I too have a trunk that left New York State in the 1800's, traveled to Nebraska, on to Oregon, and to Florida in 1922. We enjoy it today as a repository of "stuff."
Thank you for sharing your journey with us as you settle into your cozy cabin.

Cheryl said...

Great post - but I have to say that trunk will not be more beautiful for any restoration process. Perhaps you will find it fits your lifestyle better with a new outfit, maybe it will be easier to keep it clean when you start with a new topcoat - but it's hard to acquire the patina it currently displays.

Christopher C. NC said...

Perhaps I can just give the old steamer trunk a more thorough cleaning on the exterior and not restore it and be happy. A new interior lining would be nice though. It certainly isn't on the top ten list of things that need doing.

Anonymous said...

That trunk is identical to one I got from my grandmother. I put a little stain on the wood slats and shined 'em up a little and took off the rotted linen covering, and made a cedar 'closet' out of it. Then it got scorched in a house fire so I had to paint it, but it still works!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Ooooo your very own Treasure Chest.

Christopher C. NC said...

Bev the wheels on this trunk still roll and all the hinges work. I'll start with a deeper cleaning and some spit shine and see what I think.

Lisa it is a bit late for it to be my dowry box, treasure chest it shall be.

Siria said...

I think I must add my 2 cents worth of thoughts on your beautiful inherited trunk...I too love that old trunk just as it is!