Whilst living in London, I was broke and struggling for almost 5 months. During that time I would live off 50p breakfasts, soups and instant noodles. Many people go through this and I don’t count myself as ‘the hard done by’ but, you learn to appreciate the small stuff. One afternoon, during my routine scrounge at the 1pound store, I came across a lamp. It was horrid really, but it matched my room, so I sacrificed two breakfasts to buy it. It lasted three months before it broke. I was more upset by this than losing my ipod, because it stood for something more than a lamp.
On telling my gran this story, she looked around her living room and simply said; “I would never give any of this away.”
For the next hour she told me the stories behind all her various pieces of furniture.
The coffee table in the middle of the lounge
My gran explained that my mother, uncle and both aunts used to stand on top of it and perform shows for my grandparents. “Just like you did.” I actually remember performing with my sister and cousins on that table, it was our stage, our platform. It was also our cure for boredom when it rained during our visits to gran over Christmas. If you look underneath there is still children’s scrawl from both generations. “I would never give this away.”
My gran claims she never played well, but my grandfather loved to hear her play. My grandfather was a mechanic and made a humble living. He had caught wind that the neighbors were looking to sell their piano and his mind was set. One afternoon, he walked in with a handful of cash (his bonus) threw it up in the air triumphantly and announced: “Here is your piano!” He bought it that same day. “I would never give this away.”
The pull-out desk
My grandfathers favourite piece, picked up in their early days of marriage, for next to nothing at a second-hand store. He made good use of it and my gran now writes her sermons on it too. It’s incredible to think that such a beautiful piece of furniture, with so many memories, was picked up for a couple rands.
The magazine rack
My great-grandfather was a minister, he was well respected for his work but not his carpentry skills. The only thing he ever made stills stands close to my gran and holds her crossword puzzles.
The side table
Colonel Fewing, a retired colonel from the Indian army, gave my gran her side table as a wedding present. She was unaware, that on their incredibly small pension, that the table was actually from their own home.
I could go on and on… her apartment isn’t full of furniture, but treasures. I can’t blame the mass producer of furniture anymore then I can blame a fast food chain for obesity. I blame myself in a sense that I don’t always treasure what I am given and instead of treasuring the precious, I hunt for the shiny and new. I don’t expect myself to change and only stick to second hand stores, but I hope I at least have a damn good story attached to my IKEA purchases.