I often wish that old furniture could talk. What a story many of these antique pieces could tell. Where do they come from? Who made them and who did they belong to? All the people they have met and most importantly, what brought them into my little workshop.
I love working with old furniture; it started as a hobby when I was young and became my new income, when I semi retired from my original career. Sometimes I find interesting things in these old pieces. From children toys to silver spoons; lighters, coins and jewelry pieces and even the little ones leave things behind, like crayons and dog treats. All the things disappear in the cracks of the furniture and stay hidden there for years, until I dig them out.
I find lots of trash as well, empty candy wrappers, jelly beans and broken hair bands, an endless list of goodies and treasures from the past.
Years ago, right after I started my business, I worked on an antique couch and found an old, blackened silver spoon and a few coins in it. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. All together it wasn’t worth much, only a couple of dollars in coins and who would miss an old spoon? But it wasn’t mine and just taking it didn’t feel right.
“Throw the spoon away and put the coins in my tip jar?” I thought about it back and forth and realized, that I had to come up with a rule that I would follow.
I talked with my husband about it and that night I made it my policy, to give all my findings back, no matter how small or how big they were. I remember the old ladies face, when she saw the old spoon in the zip-lock bag. She looked at me in disbelieve and she started to cheer. The old, blackened silver spoon was the one, that had been missing from the set since years and she was so excited. She proved me right, it wasn’t my call to determine what was of value and what wasn’t. The flower bouquet she gave me, was so much nicer than the old spoon.
A young man came in my workshop a few weeks ago and brought me an older piece to work on. It was a marvelous little settee and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. That poor thing was worn and torn and needed a gentle push into the 21st century.
There were no hidden treasures in that old piece, just a few nickels and dimes, an old door hook, that must have fallen out of someone’s pocket and a small key.
Everything went in the zip lock bag and I continued to work on the piece. I called the customer when it was finished and they young gentleman came by.
He loved what he saw, but looked at me funny, when I gave him the bag with my findings. “Why are you giving me that?” he asked and added, “Why bother,” and I knew that he didn’t understand.
I told him about the diamond earrings that I had found once and about the gentlemen, who gave me a bear hug, because I had found his missing wedding ring.
“What if I find a hundred dollar bill in your piece of furniture, or the old watch, that you inherited and you miss so dearly?” He still looked at me and I could tell, that he didn’t get the whole picture. “Nobody missed a few bucks”, he said and I sighed.
Would he understand that it just doesn’t feel right to take something that isn’t yours? Would he understand that it has something to do with honesty and work ethic?
“When does honesty start, with 5 cents, 5 Dollars….50 Dollars or more?” I asked him, “What’s the price of honesty these days?”
He was quiet for a while and then he nodded, “You are right, I didn’t think it all the way through” and he grabbed the zip lock back. He opened it and threw the coins in my tip jar, then he got the rest out and he hesitated, when he saw the key.
“Was that in the settee?” he asked and I nodded. He excused himself and walked outside; I could hear him on the phone. When he came back in he smiled. The old key had been missing since years; it belonged to an old cabinet that he had inherited from his Grandfather, he was certain of it.
I smiled and I even though I didn’t say it, I am quite sure he understood the look I gave him ‘I told you so’.
He paid and we loaded the little settee into his van. Two days later he came by and verified that indeed, it had been the old original key to the old, antique cabinet. He thanked me again.
He will be a returning customer for a very long time and I am glad, because I like his taste in flowers. 🙂