This is the piece of furniture that started it all
too broken to ship
goodwill “won’t take it”
and (long pause) “I’m sorry, but we just have no space to keep it“
So, in a rushed, frustrated, and desperate decision-making convo, it was decided that we would take it to the dump.
My mother’s beloved dresser...a piece of furniture over 50 years old inspired this whole writing project. And therefore, there is no better object to be my opener...
...(heartfelt looooooong sigh)
We believe this was a gift—possibly a wedding gift from my grandfather. My mother shipped it to Hawaii from Japan. It was one of the only pieces of furniture my mom kept from each move.
As you can see, the mirror is no longer aligned to the backing wood, and the handles are broken.
But there was a time when everything was intact, and inside each drawer were articles of my mother’s life.
One drawer had her beautiful designer scarves, the next had bras and undergarments. The compartment with the door had a pull-out drawer which held perfumes and jewelry boxes, and the table-top part of the dresser had accessories, contact lense paraphernalia, and other Knick-knacks.
I remember how my mother would always keep almost-empty bottles of perfume with her under garments to infuse everything with wonderful scent. She was glamorous inside and out.
And yet, very homey and arts-and-craftsy , which is why each drawer is lined with a different kind of country-like printed wallpaper/wrapping paper.
When I opened this drawer and saw the liner, my heart warmed thinking of her cutting it to fit. I’m sure the wall paper was on sale, and maybe was the only print left.
Growing up, my mom and dad slept in separate rooms. My dad’s room had his word processor with a noisy printer, and my mom’s room had her painting things.
It was as if they lived in their own small art studios. Each would stay up however long they wanted to be able to create at any hour—without having to disturb the other’s sleep.
We didn’t grow up rich with a large spacious house. We lived in a 3 bedroom apartment, which in my memory seemed huge, but in the same way an elementary school cafeteria seems like the largest space on the planet to a child, I’m sure the apartment was relatively small .
My parents were artists—and more than occasionally, starving artists— to the truest of forms, and although my mom held a good job, notably the first female to hold her position for a Japanese (male dominated) company, her “true” passion and profession was as an artist.
My mom’s room was small and tight, and at one point, this dresser was right next to her easle. It’s true, that her splatters of paint, “devalue” the dresser, but these splatters of paint represent the highest point of creativity in my mom’s art career.
In reading old letters from my dad to his family, my mom—like me—took a break from painting to raise my sister and I.
I must have been around 2 or 3 when my dad mentioned in a letter that “Reiko wants to start painting again...” something yet to be written about me.
Many of my memories of my mom were of her in her small studio art space-bedroom. She created some of the most dynamic, political, and surreal paintings: Broken images of bluish dead faces, smiling masks chipping away to reveal an evil face behind, heads split in half, blood dripping on a map of the world... all pouring out from my tiny smiling happy mom.
That room, as she said many, many times, was her creative zone. After all, she was surrounded by her favorite things.
In many ways, I see that dresser the way I saw my mom. At one point, the dresser was pristine, clean on the outside— a beautiful mirror which reflected all that surrounded her.
But as time and life happened, the outside took a beating. A dent over here, a broken handle over there, and finally the mirror to the world, shifted and fell, never breaking—because nothing was strong enough to ever break my mom— not even the cancer.
But, it was what was inside the dresser that counted. That’s where the extraordinary and extravagance lived. Her mystery, elegance, and her high class nature, all on the inside.
The dresser itself may have not been worth much. I dont think it’s a piece for the antiques roadshow, or anything that could go for auction. But the woman who once owned it made us believe it so.
It was her level of class that made everything seem rare and special. She hardly ever talked about money or the cost of things. That kind of talk was beneath her, and often she would comment on how much she disliked people who always talked about money.
I will FOREVER be grateful for that part of my mom.
Some people feel the need to tell you the price of every item in their household—or tell you of their riches over the dinner table. Maybe in hopes, that you will somehow care about how expensive their taste is, or how valuable their assets are.
But, class and manners speak louder than cost, and the simple choice of conversation topic says it all. If all you can talk about is prices, you have no concept of values.
A lesson from my mother with which I will take to the grave is, money cannot buy class. You either have it, or don’t. And she had it.
And she held it inside and carried It on the outside.
On Friday 1/12/2018, I left the house to go grocery shopping, I looked fondly at the dresser as it awkwardly sat in our garage. I smiled and thought again, as I have since we got it in our possession, “if only I had space for you...”
i sighed and got in my car.
when I returned from shopping, it was gone. My husband, as promised, said he would wait until Friday and then take it to the dump.
My heart cracked as I looked at the empty space of where the dresser used to be. I called Dean and sadly asked, “did you take the dresser to the dump already?”
he responded with “yes, I have it now, do you want to keep it?”
so much of me wanted to say yes, please turn around, I want to keep it.
So much of me wanted to get mad and say, why didn’t you wait until I got home?
So much of me just wanted to touch it one more time and open the drawers, simply as a way of saying goodbye.
so much of me just wanted to cry...
But, after a pause, I said “no. it’s ok.”
”yes, I’m sure. I wanted to take more pictures of it before it went, but I guess I have enough...”
”I took some pictures of it for you”
”thanks so much Dean-san. Love you.”
“love you too”
and that was it.
When Dean got home, he did his normal greeting to Yume and me, and after some time he looked at me and said “I saved the small pull -out drawer for you.” He smiled.
And my heart smiled back. It’s not all gone after all.
i will admit, I am still so sad that the dresser gone. In the same way I am still so sad that my mom is gone. But, that’s life. My mom used to say, “sometimes you have to turn the other way winnie. Ignore the sad, and keep going.”
And yes, that is true...If I keep trying to walk with my hands full of the past, what space will I have for the future?
I hope you enjoyed this first recollection. Stay tuned for more. i can’t promise each blog to be as long or as detailed (but who knows that may be a good thing. )