A few days ago, I took out a really old piece of family furniture to clean it up and see if I could give it a new life. It's a long low cabinet with an odd history. My great grandfather worked as a delivery man for a dry-goods warehouse back around the turn of the century. The turn of the twentieth century that is. He drove a wagon drawn by a team of horses.
The cabinet originally came out of the warehouse where he worked. It stayed in his basement for untold decades, a home for tools, half used cans of paint, and other odds and ends. After that, it made it's way to my dad's garage where it stayed for another few decades. I can distinctly recall the handful of tools, fishing tackle, paint, lawn jarts, car parts and motor oil living there when I was a kid. When my parents sold their old home, it ended up in a storage unit for years, and was nearly let go, but for my saying I wanted it.
When I set it down in my driveway to clean it up, it looked used up. Used hard. One end was stained where a pan of motor oil had spilled over the top of it. The doors were stuck closed or broken. Spray paint marred some of them. Another had a few slugs from a long forgotten pellet gun. The dark reddish-brown finish was covered in a century of grime and dust.
I took the doors off and set them aside. Then, with a bucket of soapy water and brush, I started scrubbing, inside and out. A few hours later, the rich grain of oak peered out from beneath the grime. The golden color of the wood looked happy to see the sun. The few stains and scars that remain are only smile lines.
A little polish and repair work took only a short time more. Now the open shelves are home to a colorful collection of children's toys and books. The television and a couple of houseplants sit on top. Sometimes recycling is a feel good exercise.