Friday, November 03, 2006

Day two: Dressing tables

The dressing table at the top of the stairs

When I was a little girl, my father obtained a dressing table. I don’t remember from where, maybe from a family member, or maybe from a friend. The vanity was dark brown, mahogany we presumed, with a carved mirror top. It did not sit high enough for an adult, as it was smaller than required for a woman to sit at comfortably but probably too large to be meant for a child. It had four drawers, two on each side. My sister and I filled the drawers with our trinkets and treasures and of course many pencils, pens and small pads of paper. The years passed and eventually we forgot to use it. In time, the drawers emptied. The table sat in my parent’s guest bedroom. It became a shelf for the items mom stored in that room. Eventually the stationary bicycle was put in front of it and no one talked of it anymore.

Years later, after my daughter was born, I realized that this table would be an excellent addition to her room. Little girls like gazing at themselves in the mirror. Wrapped in a soft blanket to cushion its long journey, we carefully hauled it back from Canada. I placed it in her room. She filled the drawers with trinkets and treasures mirroring my conduct when I was a girl. She hung her purses off of the carved mirror frame, her jewelry and other items she valued. The top of the mirror held her hair bands and scarves. But as with my sister and me, young girls forget the magic puffs of their past play, as other thoughts begin fill their mind.

Last week I took the dressing table from her room. She wanted to make room for a lounge pillow arrangement so she could listen to her music. Space for those activities are now more valuable than for dressing up. I placed the dresser in the upstairs hallway. I decided not to put it in our guest room. I think I want this dresser to be where I can see it, enjoy it again. So every time I climb the stairs, I can see these memories. I can look in the mirror of memory, and see this table as it was. Sadly, I can’t see the table, as it first was, years and years ago, before it came to me, to know the first woman or girl to use it. Maybe to preen and place a hat gently upon her head, with her headed tilted pleasantly, or use a powder puff that would scent her lightly, softening and dusting her skin. Or the pearl handled brush which she would brush her long hair. This table lends itself to the imaginary and to the actual. Old objects succeed with that, their history is both the story they can tell, and also that which is too intimate that they hold it close and never reveal. Those they hold close, open the viewer to what was, even if it wasn’t.

Have a great day.


  1. Objects have such resonances I don't think they can be entirely, irreducably inanimate. I felt the same about my son's soft toys (with which we used to play soccer)
    when I found them recently.

    Rabbit Rovers’ Last Game

    You'll not remember season 94 to 95:
    You were about eight,
    and the cup final was a thriller.
    The crowd was on its feet,

    all furry animals, steeped in the hype
    and the history of the game.
    My team, all slightly shady types,
    lost in extra time,

    a volley from that poacher Ralph the Dog
    that Ivan Squirrel couldn't grasp.
    Then the score was duly logged
    and filed with all the other stats,

    the stars lined up for autographs,
    as the fans were gathered up to go,
    and you headed thoughtfully for your bath
    none of us to know

    the goalposts were about to shift,
    the boot stuck in by nature,
    and even Ivan with his giant palms
    couldn’t keep out the future.

  2. Thanks Shug. We have stuffed puppies invade planets and generally be silly. Fun times.