I am my father’s daughter in one very specific way—I have an eye for discarded, curbside furniture. When, upon close inspection, I discover that a piece is still serviceable, I wonder what the possible back story of its rejection could be. Was the fate of that Queen Anne chair sealed when it failed to blend with newer, more fashionable pieces introduced into a household? Or was it perhaps the casualty of misguided feng shui cleaning? Whatever the reason, and there could be a plethora of valid ones, these thrown-away selections are on the street awaiting disposal or rescue. Occasionally, a former owner leaves a good-will handwritten sign on, say, a floor lamp, announcing that it “STILL WORKS.” And while the reason for that particular treasure’s current pavement location is unknown, this brief missive certainly encourages recycling, perhaps an 11th-hour reprieve.
Last spring, I came across an old desk, very distressed, looking worse for wear but in the best possible way. It was outside an attached townhouse in my current neighborhood of Throgs Neck in the Bronx (I’m a lifelong Manhattanite transplant). Now, this was about a decent quarterback’s throw from my apartment building. I noticed it on a trek to the main thoroughfare for shopping, and promised myself, as I frequently do when I spot a potential find, that if it was there on my way back, I would investigate the possibility of giving it a new home. As luck would have it, it was still there when I returned. I circled round the desk, trying to find a reason why I shouldn’t claim this treasure, which I was already starting to envision in my own livingroom. It wasn’t dusty, or moldy, as if long forgotten in a basement. The knobs were still on all of its four drawers. I opened the main one. No problem there. Same with the deeper top drawer on the right. Both were empty as expected.
All I had to do was carry the desk home. I managed to haul it to the corner and across the avenue, where I encountered a neighbor who offered his muscle power, but not before trying to talk me out of this pursuit. “This isn’t real wood,” he told me. I think he said it was “veneer,” and kindly offered to give me a wooden desk he had actually made. Well. While I appreciated his very generous offer, it was too late. I was invested now, maybe even smitten, and this rescue was coming home with me, either with his help or by way of my own guts and glory stamina. The desk had found a new home, my home, and at this point I wouldn’t be deterred or persuaded otherwise. Maybe this was my Charlie Brown tree.
Once inside my apartment, I temporarily settled the new edition in my foyer and started cleaning it. As I opened the middle drawer, with cloth in hand, I came upon an unbridled declaration in big three-inch curly letters spelling out “LINDA-N-EDDIE!” Seeing this instantly brought a smile to my face, along with memories of past young love—the teenage infatuation that compels a girl to repeatedly scribble her name, together with the name of a secret crush or a new boyfriend, everywhere in her immediate world.
We see these deliberate, even rebellious, written announcements of first romantic yearnings carved into trees, rushed to be imprinted on fresh cement before it dries, and colorfully graffitied on buildings and bridges. But sometimes they are hidden, like the one I discovered in my romantic desk: “LINDA-N-EDDIE,” beautifully inscribed on the bottom of the middle drawer. Whenever I gaze on it, sweet memories from yesteryear fill my mind, and I remember that love fills all of us, throughout our lives, with hope and promise.