Monday, June 6, 2011


In an impromptu tour of our hostess’ beach home, she shared her joy of honoring family and of creating new from old—she calls it repurposing. That charming weatherworn white bird house perched on a pillar in her living room? Repurposed from the garden of her former B&B; to use the bird house as indoor décor, she found a tall, slender, curvy pillar. The pink and green tile-top table on the porch? Repurposed from a living room end table that now has a rattan top repurposed from an earlier use. The trunk topped with glass showcasing her husband’s fishing lures, hole-in-one golf ball, and other mementos? Repurposed from a box her grandfather had made when one day her grandmother had casually said, “I need a box,” then repurposed into our hostess’ childhood toy box. In recent years, she looked at the trunk and thought if someone built up the top into a glass showcase …

Sepia photos of our hostess’ ancestors, an 1895 edition of the kittens who lost their mittens book, eclectic collection of mirrors, Roseville vases and Rosepoint glassware—we heard all their stories. For example, her sister secretly wanted their mother’s Rosepoint cake plate (which had a story all its own). When her sister learned her mother had sold her Rosepoint glass collection, she went to the antiques dealer and bought it back from him. Afraid her mother would find out, she always hid that cake plate whenever her mother visited—until one visit, she didn’t. When her mother heard the subsequent chapter in the Rosepoint cake plate’s life, she exclaimed, “Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted that plate?”

I was thinking how rare vision like our hostess’ is today in our throwaway society. A beat-up old bird house? Eh, just pitch it. Pink tiles no longer match your new décor? Out in the trash goes the table; you can always buy a new one. She values the old because of their stories. Though she has discarded items she saw no new use for, she sees new life in many more items than the average person does. I treasure a wooden trunk my dad crafted, but my only vision is to put blankets in it now and toys later. A trunk is a trunk is a trunk. I don’t look at a trunk and see a display case. And I could stare at two tables until my eyeballs turned into marshmallows and never imagine the table tops on each other’s bases, let alone on completely different bases. Our living room has furniture made new to look antique. I once saw a TV do-it-yourselfer flogging a pristine dresser with chains to dent and scuff the paint off its corners for an instant-antique look. This seemed both ridiculous and clever. We abandoned the clever, but kept the ridiculous—to achieve the cottage look, we didn’t find antiques and fix them up; we bought new “antiques”—pre-flogged furniture.

Our hostess explained that even the cottage we are renting this week has been repurposed. In the 1930s it was part of a resort. Back then, little bedroom cabins dotted this land. When families came to enjoy the lakefront, they ate in a central dining hall. Eventually, the land was parceled off and sold, the cabins demolished. But—our hostess and her husband purchased a lot with two of the cabins. Again, their repurposing vision came into play. Since the dining hall was gone, if they wanted to rent the cabins, they’d need to add kitchens, eating areas, and living space. So they did just that. A few years ago, they wanted to build a home for themselves, but instead of demolishing one of the little cottages to gain land, they sold it to someone who moved it down the road to preserve it and continue to rent it out. Her lovely beach home and our little cottage for the week share land and lake. When we arrived, she delighted to tell the story behind the picture hanging over our couch. Someone had donated an 80-year-old black-and-white picture postcard to the historical society, where she volunteers. She recognized the tiny white cabin tucked into trees and repurposed the postcard by enlarging the photo for a 16-by-20 frame and giving it a place of honor where it could speak to many more generations enjoying this cozy cottage.

I admire people’s talent for creating new while honoring old. Some people have a knack for accessorizing outdated clothing to create striking new outfits. Others have additional vision and skills to raise and lower hems and change collars and lapels to create new looks. Our hearts and minds have rusting junkyards full of treasures, too. In the process of maturing, we repurpose experiences to learn and do better next time. When we succeed—for example, we approach conflict differently and this time the other person responds positively—it’s a beautiful new relationship, a little scuffed but now more serviceable. And remember the ditty we sang around Girl Scout campfires? “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.” Old friendships that bend, flex, and re-create themselves as our lives change are more precious than gold and certainly become more beautiful with burnishing over time.  

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

Happy Wednesday! You asked me the following question: "Say, do you know why sadness in the presence of royalty was such a crime?"

To help answer this question I found this answer online:

Nehemiah’s face was sad when he served the wine to the king. He had not been sad before when he was with the king. In those days servants had to be happy when they were with the king (i.e. Esther 4:2). They must not make the king sad or angry. The king could kill servants who made him angry.

But Nehemiah was sad that day. And the king could see that Nehemiah was sad. The king might have been very angry and Nehemiah was afraid. But God was in control and so the king was kind to Nehemiah. The king asked Nehemiah why he was sad. So Nehemiah told the king the bad news about Jerusalem.

Nehemiah chose his words carefully. It seems that he did not actually name Jerusalem. In the past, the king had been worried about Jerusalem (Ezra 4:19). At that time, the king did not want the *Jews to rebuild the city. So Nehemiah simply spoke about the city where his *ancestors’ graves were. He mentioned the graves for another reason too. Often, people believe that they should take great care of graves, because of their religion. Nehemiah hoped that the king would feel sympathy for him.