Snow was falling, and our town was caked in soft white flakes. Clinging desperately to the trees, the beauty was undeniable. Everything outside suggested Christmas time was in the air. The stillness, the excitement, the lights. You know the almost tangible feeling that comes along with the holidays. It can’t be duplicated or bought. There simply is no such thing as a knock-off December.
We were out of school.
I was 9.
We were living in house #42 (that’s not a house number to identify which house on the street, that’s a house number indicating how MANY houses we had lived in.)
We had moved in the middle of the year. again. I was in fourth grade. From Sun Valley, Idaho… to Park City, Utah. We had no right being in either of these pretentious, perfect, little ski towns… but my family habitually did things we had no right to be doing.
How we survived is still beyond me.
Our new rental was a duplex. It was huge. And had a balcony that wrapped all the way around our corner lot. Later, in this home, we would acquire a roommate to help make ends meet. A single mom with a five year old daughter. But that’s another story for another time.
When you walked through our front door the feeling of Christmas magic disappeared. Nothing occupied the place except six bodies… my mother, my four siblings, and myself. There was no kitchen table to dine at, no family pictures lining our walls, I doubt we even had so much as a bathroom towel hanging.
We had moved abruptly and unexpectedly, as always. I honestly can’t remember the reason for this specific time. Eviction? Marital problems? There simply being no money left to even scrape two dimes together? Or maybe dad was back in jail? …. it’s all a blur.
I guess that’s irrelevant.
My mom had somehow managed to stash what little “stuff” we owned in a storage unit before we headed South.
As always, I felt safe. I felt happy. And my mom was a modern day super hero who managed to make the five us little ones feel like we had won the lottery just by being placed in our family. And guess what? I still totally feel that way.
At a time when most everything was against us. We had our Faith. We had our people. And we had angels. literally.
I believe God works through others. often. And if we are willing to listen, there are times in each of our lives where we can have the blessing of being an angel also.
There are good people in this world.
In this small pretentious ski town there lived a man who was anything but pretentious. He listened to the whisperings from God. A subtle urge to help a family in need.
Tears stream down my face as I type this, because it is still surreal to me that people are this good.
He got some other good men together. They left their families, their homes, and spent their time off work elbow deep in service. They rented a U-haul, and drove the six hours to our storage unit. They paid the back rent. They loaded our stuff. (including a special dresser that will give a little more purpose to this post.)
We sat inside. On the floor, I’m sure. completely unaware of how those same hours were being spent in their lives.
Details are fuzzy. But a few things I remember like yesterday.
There was a knock on our door.
It was two days before Christmas.
And before my little nine year old eyes could blink, my home was FILLED with people. Men carrying in our furniture. Women unloading sheets and blankets, putting our beds together. Smiles, lots of smiles. Kind voices asking us where the best place for this or that was. My stuff materializing out of nowhere.
And pizza, root beer, and ice cream. (my mom swears this was a different act of service, at a different time in our lives.) But to me-this detail belongs with this memory. This, in fact is the most prevalent part of this whole memory. These were luxuries we just couldn’t afford. And I remember eating like there was no tomorrow. At a table, no less.
It was a whirlwind of kindness, empathy, and Christ like love. Something straight out of a movie. Within an hour or two, our house had been transformed into a home. And you better believe, before these angels went back to their own families and lives… a little, fresh Christmas tree was placed in our living room.
And just like that…. all the magic came inside.
I share this memory because it has shaped my belief system. I believe now that “stuff” matters. It is important we have the necessities, and that even more than just that- we surround ourselves with “stuff” that means something. I enjoy pretty things. I enjoy creating spaces. I enjoy “stuff” as much as the next person. But due to my upbringing, I truly cherish the stories that come with the things in our home.
One of the first projects I embarked upon after our move a few weeks ago, was my Grandpa’s dresser. This is a piece that has been with my family through it all. And is a very sentimental way to remember my mom’s dad, who passed away when i was 13.
As you can tell, money was not something we had much of. But my dad was a house painter, and my mom had always been a free spirit when it came to letting her kids express themselves. We always tried to make things feel like they belonged, and like we had a sense of normalcy within our walls.
This dresser has been painting at LEAST six times that I can remember. This kind of trickery was just all part of my super hero mom magically making us feel like we had just as much as everyone else. She would get SO excited and so passionate about letting us make small improvements that we could occasionally afford.
And paint – my friends- might be the MOST affordable, most drastic, and most dummy proof way to give your nook a face lift.
From stained wood, to baby blue with “clouds”, to soft yellow with sunflower knobs, to distressed lime green… this dresser tells a bit about each chapter in my life. Always a constant in each home…but a true reflection of my style (or lack thereof) through out the years. I’m not sure if I LOVED all those colors, or just found them in the clearance reject bins at the paint store…but either way…they got the job done.
How I wish I had pictures of each stage, but give me a break you guys. Most of these photos are in boxes somewhere if they were lucky enough they ever got developed.
But here are the few I could find…. disposable camera quality and all!
(My cousin Rebekah and our famous sunflower knobs!)
(My brother Trevor and our dog Dopey…And I forgot it used to have a mirror! Must have been broken in one of our moves…)
(My sister and co-owner! Here’s the blue and “clouds”…and OMG we were SO messy!!! Maybe I should give my kids a break…)
(and the green it’s been over the last five years…)
I wish I had better photos. But I remember painting her as a newlywed. It was a quick and easy method, and i didn’t even bother to remove the hardware. I wouldn’t suggest being that lazy, but I loved it nonetheless. It served as my baby’s changing table/newborn photo prop. (As I type these posts, i’m realizing just how dependent I have become on emoticons. how embarrassing. But I definitely want to stick a laughing or awkward face emoji at the end of that last sentence).
I’m noticing so far with this house, I’m joining the ever so trendy mid-century modern look more and more. So that was my inspiration for the new paint job. I already had the brown paint from some old project, and the white was an afterthought actually. The hardware consist of some super cheap knock offs from amazon. All in all, this project cost me about $50, which is a HUGE step down from buying a new dresser of this quality with this style.
(scraping off years of old paint. a tedious, but NECESSARY step)
(it’s still not “styled”, and the drawers are still empty…)
Granted, the paint job is amateur, the dresser is not actually shaped like a mid century piece, and it took a lot more effort than pushing a “buy now” button online.
But…”stuff” matters. This matters to me. I look at this everyday and think of my grandpa. I wonder how many years he had this in his own bedroom. I think of the memories this dresser has witnessed, and the sacrifices people have made to keep it in my life. sound silly? maybe. But I can guarantee you, if you hold on to meaningful pieces- your home with have a warmth Ikea just can’t imitate.