Is This Up For Grabs?


It was over forty years ago, but the memory is vivid. When the General and I first moved to Austin treasures found in antique shops in both Fredericksburg and New Braunfels mesmerized us. Of course, Austin was dotted with places where things from long ago could also be found.


One of my hobbies was refinishing furniture. The ability to invest some sweat equity into wooden things from yester-year paid big dividends in terms of personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t infrequent that I offered to refinish pieces of furniture for friends just because I had the ability and I enjoyed the process.


I remember that my maternal grandparents had an antique chifferobe that had been in the family for many years. It had belonged to my grandfather’s parents. Probably during my childhood years, all of the grandkids had an interest in the chifferobe. For starters, we had never seen anything like it before. It was two pieces of furniture built into one. It doubled as a chest-of-drawers and a place to hang a few garments. So it served as a wardrobe as well as a space to place other articles of clothing.


Interestingly when we were bringing closure to the General’s mother’s home, my youngest grandson walked through to look at “Grandma’s treasures” that were available for the taking. He was like a kid in a candy store. He repeatedly found things that spurred his interest and he would ask: “Is this up for grabs?” I was amazed at how eclectic his interests were in any number of things.


I’m figuring that as kids, we also envisioned that in decades to come, eventually my grandparents’ chifferobe would be up for grabs. One of my cousins had expressed an interest in the chifferobe to Grandma. Good for her is all I can say. I’d call that careful planning. At any rate, by the time I noticed that the chifferobe needed some attention in the midst of my young adulthood, I volunteered to take it home and refinish the piece simply because it was too precious in all of our memories not to stay in the best of shape.


My grandparents were pleased with the outcome and it filled me with a sense of pride to have had a hand in restoring the furniture. Shortly after coming to Henly as pastor of the church, I visited in the home of a church family that had a unique chifferobe. It too, needed refinishing. Following the death of the patriarch in the family a few months later, I offered to refinish the chifferobe for his wife. She, too, was appreciative of the efforts at the restoration.


Interestingly, the last time I attempted to refinish anything, I was disappointed to find that you can no longer purchase paint remover like the kind I used forty years ago. The stuff available for purchase today doesn’t work nearly as well as the caustic and more effective paint remover from decades ago.


We were living in our first home in Austin when a colleague from work asked if I’d refinish a trunk she had purchased in an antique store. The trunk was mostly metal with wooden slates across the top. She wanted the trunk painted and antiqued and the wooden slates refinished.


As it turned out, the trunk was filled with old photographs. They looked as though they had been taken in the early 1900s. Many of them were photographer quality and obviously captured the presence of many who were now on the other side of eternity. I remember being both puzzled and saddened. How could folks with family ties to ancestors choose to part with their family’s pictures?


Long before my paternal grandmother’s death, she insisted that I take a lot of old family photos that she had in her possession. I never asked for the pictures, but she knew I valued that kind of connection with extended family from long ago. I took the pictures home and had many of them framed.


Actually, that’s not really true. I didn’t have them framed. I framed them myself. The friend that I refinished the trunk for knew that occasionally I made picture frames. I had purchased the right kind of saw and had the equipment needed for picture framing.


My friend was living in Victoria at the time and a framing shop was going out of business. She encouraged me to purchase the shop owners inventory. Why not? Healthy people have hobbies. This was one I could do. What was I thinking? Trust me, a garage half filled with framing material will put a hobby on the fast track. I also cut out my own mattings and often made collages of framed photographs with many pictures scattered throughout a frame.


The other day as I walked through our home, I noticed all of the famed photographs and had the thought: “Nobody is going to want these pictures after we are gone.” In fact today’s generation doesn’t gravitate toward anything old. We have friends who live in Maine. They often go to auctions that include fabulous antiques from yester-year and there is little interest. Figuratively speaking, the pieces go for a song. Nobody wants old stuff any longer.


So what about all of the photos in our possession? In bringing closure to the General’s mother’s home, the General now has another album of our wedding pictures. I guess if the General ever chooses to kick me out the door for having a messy office, we can each have an album that is identical. However, I don’t anticipate that will happen. In the event that it does, an old album of wedding pictures would probably be bittersweet.


Honestly, from the vantage point of approaching the upper end of the spectrum in terms of age, we might do our children a favor if we filled an old truck with photos and handed them all over to an antique shop. Nobody is going to want that stuff. Of course, our wedding photos are two months shy of being 50 years old. That doesn’t carry the same glamor as being 100 years old.


I’m sure we will figure it out, but I don’t anticipate our kids are going to want our extensive collection of old photographs. For that matter, I don’t anticipate they are going to want much of anything else.


All My Best!