I don’t know why this is a phenomenon in my family all of a sudden, but my sisters and I have been on quite the stealing streak, treating my parents’ house as the local consignment shop.
It started with Heather.
Heather is about as artistic and handy as they come, and when visiting me in Wickford one weekend, found an adorable vanity-sized dresser with some beautiful detailing. Like most older furniture, it was well made and sturdy, and even though it needed a new paint job, the interesting wood carvings on the top and feet would not be lost. She went with a demure sea foam green color and replaced the wooden knob hardware with glass handles to class it up. Within weeks, she was refinishing a large trunk to be used as a TV stand. She had caught the bug, but had quickly depleted her collection of potential remodels. Rather than turn to retail, she went downstairs – to my parents’ basement.
Underneath the basement stairs, a bureau that was formerly in my parents’ bedroom was sitting gathering dust, filled with gift bags and wrapping paper. Heather spent an hour consolidating the contents into another hutch and proceeded to tell my mother that she was going to paint it.
“No, you can’t paint that! I love that bureau.”
“If you love that bureau, why is it in the basement?”
A fair point, but one that my mom brushed off. It was her bureau and even if she didn’t need it at that very moment, there could come a time in the future when the size of her wardrobe would double and she’d be in the market for a cherry wood dresser.
Heather, undeterred, left her with an ultimatum.
“Either we bring it upstairs and use it, or I paint it.”
Still without the endorsement of my parents, Heather sanded down the bureau and put a coat of primer on it before anything else could be said on the issue. In the week that followed, she would spend an hour or so downstairs each night, adding a coat of white paint to the body of the bureau and a glossy black coat to the top. A trip to Lowe’s left her disappointed when the only hardware she thought would work was too expensive. Turning again to our basement-turned-shopping center, she took the handles off the hutch (the one now holding all of our gift wrapping materials) and spray painted them black with Rustoleum.
Although this is definitely not the reaction you should have if you want to discourage your children from robbing you blind, my mom fell in love with the new and improved bureau. She bragged to her best friend Elaine that Heather could easily sell the old piece of furniture for $300, maybe more, and then offered up the Hope chest holding next to nothing on the other side of the basement.
This time, mom had no complaints and no stipulations as to what could be done to the chest. Heather is currently in the process of sanding it down and will then refinish it with wood stain. What it will hold remains to be seen.
Taking a page from her book, I surveyed the outdoor furniture during our garage cleanup project several weeks ago. William and I are in the process of sprucing up our deck, and had already started the work by hanging a fishing net, buoy and decorative anchor next to our door to give it a nautical feel. We bought new wrought iron chairs for the side of the deck that faces Wickford Cove and found red and white cushions that went well with the beachy look we were establishing. Add in a blue and white striped welcome mat from the Front Porch on Brown Street and we were on our way.
Still, something was missing.
I eyed the glass-topped café set that waited in our driveway for a relocation assignment. I asked mom first – clearly she was the weak link. No luck. She said, “We use that!” but fumbled when I asked where it was supposed to go. When I countered her allegation that the set belonged in the porch (there’s already a patio set in there), I turned to dad and tried to quickly convert him before he could make eye contact with my mom. Still, no dice. He had already lifted the table over his head and was headed for the backyard.
My powers of persuasion seemed to be lacking in comparison to Heather. Divide and conquer, I thought, as Heather and I lugged tools into the basement. Stowed away in a corner was a pair of wooden barstools that had been deemed uncomfortable by my dad when a leather-top version was introduced to the mix. He identified the comfier version as his outdoor seat of choice and the other stools landed in the basement, a veritable island of misfit toys for discarded furniture, broken Christmas decorations and Little People play sets.
Waiting for my moment, I stopped by my parents’ house on a Friday morning before mentoring. Mom was home alone, leaving her defenses weakened. I asked if she was bothering to put those wooden bar stools out, seeing as dad wasn’t a big fan. The second she said she wasn’t sure, I pounced.
“C’monnnnn.” I countered in my whiniest voice.
“Well…,” she hesitated. “If your father says it’s OK.”
Capitalizing on my window, I explained that the forecast for the next day was sunny and warm – the perfect weather for painting furniture – and I wouldn’t want to make a trip to Warwick for no reason. I started edging backwards toward the door.
“I’ll just take them now, so I have them, and then call dad tonight. If he doesn’t want me to paint them, I’ll bring them back on Monday.”
Right, like that was going to happen.
By the time I turned off my parents’ street, I figured I was home free, and sure enough, mom called that night to say she had “convinced” my dad it was OK. By that time the next day, those wooden stools were red and offering the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine while looking out at the water.
Now if only I could get my hands on that outdoor bar…