(PART I: TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY)
When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.
“Don’t drag it!” she shouted. “Those are turn of the century legs—you aren’t supposed to drag them,” the antique store owner howled. “Careful, you don’t wanna break them; you already have enough work on your hands as it is.”
In Tulsa (Colorado Springs now), my wife and I own a furniture restoration business called Beauty from Ashes (I know cool name huh?—yeah, well I named it). We—mainly my wife—take old, dilapidated, sometimes rotten, furniture and make it glow again. It’s actually quite cool—and yes—I may be a little biased, but ask anyone around town and they’ll tell you that my wife is the best at what she does. Together, we traverse the earth looking for “junk” furniture that we can give a new life. Actually, what we do is restore it or give it a new purpose entirely. For example, we just finished what I call a bable—we made some old bed posts into legs, added some reclaimed lumber on top and voilà out came a bable (a table with bed posts as legs). Yeah, I know rolls off the tongue nicely, doesn’t it?...bable. This kind of work mixes things up for us; neither one of us enjoys grinding the nine-to-fivers. It’s just not our style (I think maybe we are a bit rebellious done deep).
On this muggy summer morning, we landed ourselves in a vintage store in downtown Broken Arrow (just east of Tulsa, it’s a bedroom community full of soccer games and soccer moms). And as my wife puts it, with this piece “we scored an AMAAAAAAAZING deal,” a turn of the century, mildly—just the way we like them—injured dresser.
“Don’t drag it, don’t drag it!” The owner, obviously not having the same plans or visions for the piece as I did, wanted to protect the furniture at all cost. She was getting rid of it because, despite her obvious desire to restore it, she didn’t have the same eye or the same knack for repurposing furniture as we do. More to the point, she could only see what was in front of her—an old, broken down weak-legged piece of furniture history. With her limited perspective, she couldn’t see that if I allowed this leg to break completely it would actually be in my favor.
You see, even though this was a great classic piece it had some areas that were undoubtedly less than perfect. And, although my wife chuckled at the store owner saying “turn of the century,” she did partially agree that we shouldn’t drag such a flimsy piece. Not me Jack, being the master craftsmen I am (my thoughts on the matter anyway) my perspective traveled much further into this old piece of furniture history’s future than theirs. So I drug it anyway, like a toddler dragging his little red wagon around, without much—if any—regard for the legs.
Bam, Bang, Bam!
“Slow down, Jeff!”
“You’re going to break the legs!” my wife screeched.
Bang, Bam, Pop!
I just kept going. Why didn’t I stop? Simple. Because I knew something neither one of them did. I knew if, while in transit, I allowed some of the weaker parts to break—given my woodworking prowess—I would be able to put them back together stronger than they were before (I guarantee you that Gorilla glue is much stronger than those old, brittle, “turn of the century” legs). Another reason for this: When my wife and I finish a piece, I don’t ever want to see it again. Bye…see ya, don’t come back...EVER! When a customer leaves with a piece, I don’t want them calling just to tell us the leg or some other weak part broke. No way! It eats at my bones like a Vulture when my pocket starts vibrating and I see that it’s a customer we just bid farewell (probably why this rarely happens). So if I allow the weaker parts to break in the move (or before the true test comes—when the customer leaves with it) great, I can fix it before the piece does what my wife and I have planned for it to do—go into the consumer world and satisfy consumers…and not come back. EVER.
It’s so cool to be a part of a process that takes these damaged unwanted pieces and gives them a new purpose, a new life. From the moment I heard someone utter the word ‘repurpose,' I thought, “THIS IS THE LIFE FOR ME.” Shortly thereafter, the name “Beauty from Ashes” peaked its creative little head out of the womb of our united pasts.
We (The Firecracker and myself) relate to this because of our rocky pasts, you see. When we first got together, the remains of homelessness and prostitution, like blindfolds, made it difficult for us to see any kind of worthwhile future for ourselves. Like the dilapidated turn-of-the-century piece, we were both damaged goods. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, we were like a pincushion for pain. I still smelled of homelessness and she, well, she--without my knowledge-- was prostituting for a better part of a year when we first got together. We had open wounds everywhere. Wounds that we went to great lengths to protect. With so many uncovered lesions and with few—if any—ways to treat them, we became one big walking, oozing couple sore. And as you may be able to relate, when a couple spends so much time hiding or protecting wounds, maintaining any kind of peaceable relationship can seem impossible, like grabbing for the stars.
Left unattended, wounds fester. Right?
Those times of brokenness make me think of the time I found my brother’s German Shepard, Spot, in a coyote trap...
(While the author is a licensed professional counselor, this is not an attempt to provide therapy or any other form of professional treatment, not even a bit. The writings are merely the author’s experiences on overcoming anxiety, depression, and on life and therapy in general. And in no way are they an effort to provide counseling or any other professional services. If you need professional help, by golly, seek it out...you and your family deserve it!)