My mom grew up on a farm in Michigan and as a little girl I absolutely loved hearing her tell us stories about her childhood. She would recount the time that she and her best friend were determined to sleep in the barn one night only to be frightened out of their wits by her older brother who couldn’t resist tormenting his little sister.
She would tell us all about what it was like attending a one-room, country schoolhouse with her aunt as the teacher and how she loved having her very own cow. But, in all of those years, somehow the story of the fire was never apart of her repertoire.
When my mom was 16 years old, she arrived home after working her shift as a carhop at A&W to find the road to their farmhouse completely blocked off by fire trucks. She ran towards the house and upon arriving saw firemen shoveling burned debris, water and her belongings out of her bedroom window. She tells me that she vividly remembers seeing the charred remains of her favorite doll lying in the yard. The fire, caused by faulty wiring, had started in the attic which was attached to my mom’s bedroom. Thankfully, it didn’t spread further than that but the damage, both emotionally and physically, was still significant. Among the surviving pieces of furniture were her oak bed and dresser with an attached mirror.
The same pieces which now reside in my daughter’s room.
And when we decided to give her room a makeover this summer, we faced the same dilemma we always have with her room.
While it has SO much going for it, this room has an awkward layout. It honestly feels more like an attic room with its angles and the window seat might be adorable, but with the way it’s set back in the room it makes it VERY dark even on the brightest days.
As my mom and I stood in the room one day strategizing over how to brighten the space, she casually mentioned that if I ever wanted to paint the oak furniture a lighter color that she would understand.
And, I’ll admit, I thought about it…for about 5 seconds.
Painting the bed and dresser would make the room brighter.
But I remember pretending that oak bed was a wagon. My sister and I were Mary and Laura Ingalls bouncing over the prairie behind the horses, heading out on another adventure.
And that oak dresser served as a changing table for both of my babies. I know every single nick and scratch and watermark like the back of my hand.
I just couldn’t fathom taking a paint brush to either piece.
It would be like I was covering up their history.
A history that has spanned generations and one I hope continues for many more.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally against painting furniture. I’ve done it myself here.
But, there is a time to paint.
And I time NOT to paint.
Yes, oak isn’t really considered ‘in’ anymore. You won’t see much of it on Pinterest or in home decorating magazines.
And yes, it presented a bit of a challenge as I worked on giving my girl’s room a makeover.
But, when I imagine my mom at 16 years old racing to see how much damage the fire caused to her room and then seeing that her oak bed and dresser survived, well, I simply can’t bring myself to tamper with that memory.
In the end, that memory makes it worth figuring out how to incorporate them into my vision for my daughter’s room…just as they are.
And it’s that memory which makes the results of the makeover all the more beautiful!