This old chifforobe on the side of the road

I have not written in a while. Like everyone else during this pandemic, my concerns and time have been spent elsewhere. But while out doing errands the other day, I spied this old chifforobe on the side of the road.

Chifforobe is not a commonly used word and I have to admit that I never heard that term until I read To kill a Mockingbird. The term was used during the trial of Tom Robinson when Mayella Ewel used it during her testimony against him. During her testimony, Mayella said that she had hired Tom Robinson to come into the house to bust up an old chifforobe. I have also read that “busting up a “chifforobe” is an old Southern euphemism for sex. (1)

According to Wikipedia, chifforobes first appeared in the Sears Roebuck Catalog in 1908 and was touted as a new invention.

There would have been a time that I not only would have stopped for this old and odd piece of furniture, but I would have loaded it into my truck and taken it home and found a place for it in my studio. But I no longer have a truck, my back isn’t what it used to be and I have to give pause every time I make stops like this to check myself…do I really want to add to the critical mass I call my studio?

Only time can create such a beautiful surface.

So instead of stopping and loading it up, I stopped to take photos of this weary relic that had been kicked to the curb.  The beautiful sunshine glistened over the scared surface creating shadows in it’s deep ridges, scrapes, and cracks of buckling layers of paint.

I opened the door to the “closet” side of the piece to reveal a space that had been stripped of it’s utility and purpose. It felt like opening a sarcophagus cover only to discover that the mummy had been taken. It made me think about the book, The poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard where he discusses spaces inside a house and their symbolic meanings.

As open and empty as the closet side revealed itself to be, all of the drawers were inaccessible. All of the drawer handles were long gone and without the help of a crowbar there would be no looking inside. It made me wonder when the last time they had been opened and if anything was left behind and that mystery stayed with me, so much so, that I went back the next day prepared with the tools necessary to break in to discover the secrets of it’s contents or that maybe someone long ago emptied the drawers.

But it was not to be because it was gone the next day.

In my mind’s eye, I can imagine that a young married couple excitedly ordered and bought this piece of furniture out of the Sears Roebuck Catalog in the early 1900’s. Maybe it was then passed down to a member of the family who later sold it in a garage sale, because they did not want some old piece of furniture. Maybe it had spent some time idling in a thrift store. Maybe this was not its first time it had been placed on the curb as garbage.

But it was now gone, and it made me wonder if it was unceremoniously taken to its final resting place, the city dump or if some younger artistic soul with a good back and with a truck, was struck by its decaying beauty, stopped and loaded it up to take it home and to make it purposeful again.

Sorta makes me hope it was the latter.

Footnotes: (1) Storysouth.com


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