Now that my parents are gone, I find myself really treasuring reminders of them and all the generations of my family that came before us. I received one such really big reminder last weekend: a small antique desk that belonged to my great-grandmother. It’s not a roll-top, but I don’t know what this style of desk would be called. The writing surface folds down from the desk supported by slats or rails that can be pulled out from the body of the desk. I understand that my great-grandfather Roberts bought it for my great-grandmother, and that at one time it sported an elaborate, highly carved top piece that held a mirror. Such fru-fru was probably too much for my great-grandmother’s eminently practical Germanic sensibilities, and she had that top piece removed. When my mother was a little girl and went to visit her grandmother, she was allowed to sit at the desk and play while her grandmother took a nap. Years later, as a boy I played at that same desk. As a kid I was fascinated with the idea of being a private detective along the lines of Sherlock Holmes or Jim Rockford, and that desk was my “office.” It has cubbyholes and drawers aplenty, just the kind of thing in which the Hardy Boys might find a long lost treasure map or a vital clue. I kept hoping I would find a secret compartment or a false bottom in one of the drawers. No luck. I’m also sorry to report I haven’t found a secret passage to Narnia, Middle Earth, or Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but it looks to me like the sort of furniture that could lead to such a place.
I’ve loved that desk ever since those days of daydreams, and Mom promised me that I could have it. Last weekend my sister and her husband delivered it (in the rain, bless their hearts). I feared it would be too big for my tiny apartment, but there was a perfect spot for it in my living room. Almost magical, one might say. It’s the first piece of furniture in the apartment that wasn’t bought or donated when I moved here, so it’s the first piece of furniture that has a real history and a connection to happier times. I also have my great-grandmother’s lovely, delicate tiny gold Rosary inscribed with the words “Mrs. J. J. Roberts” and a date, Oct. 26, 1913. It must have been a birthday or anniversary gift. I have my Dad’s old wristwatch, but my skinny wrists can’t accommodate it. He left some big wrists to fill.
To my faithful readers (all two of you), I offer this advice. Remember the past, live in the present, and look to the future.