10 February 2019

the making of a student

this is my old student desk, the one my parent bought for me as i began junior high school. it's maple, with a smooth top and one board that has distinctly tiger markings. there are two drawers under the top, wide enough for notebooks and paper, narrow enough for pens and pencils. the bottom drawer is lined with cedar, and i was never quite sure why. maybe cedar helps to preserve books?

as a twelve year old, having such an important piece made me feel scholarly and smart, and i worked hard through my teen years to earn those distinctions. in a big and noisy family of nine, i had my own room and my own space to read and research, ponder and dream. i spent a lot of time there as a teenager, being studious, getting good grades, and learning to be comfortable as an introvert. i do believe that this desk made me the student that i still am, some sixty years later, still yearning for new knowledge and understanding, still moved by beautiful music and literature, still in awe of the natural world around me and the advances of science as they come.

this desk also belonged to each of my younger siblings, in the order of their birth. one spilled paint in the top drawer. one broke a drawer pull and it never sat right again. while sitting at the desk, one wrote in pencil under the kneehole as she sat, some scrawled message about loving some long-forgotten boy. one drilled a hole in the maple top for a computer cord. and many years later, when the youngest of us wanted it gone, i claimed it back as mine.

for a short while, it was the girl's and she used it for a computer stand. then it sat in a crowded guest room for decades, a repository for craft materials, old christmas cards, and assorted memorabilia. about a year ago, i cleaned it out and began a futile search for a family who might want it. i debated selling it and was told it wasn't worth the trouble. defeated, i took this photo to remember it by, then reluctantly donated the piece to habitat for humanity with explicit instructions to not allow me to buy it back.

the desk sat on their garage floor for six weeks. i know this because i visited it six sundays, running my hands along the top, opening and closing the drawers, inspecting the dovetailing and looking for a sign that i should just bring it back home with me. and then one day, it was gone - sold, a bookcase in its place. i was elated, relieved, and very sad.

and here is the blessing, the happy ending, the full circle: quite by accident, i found that my desk had been sold to the family of a seven year old i have known for several years. she's of school age now, and is a curious and funny little girl. her parents wanted a serious place for her to work - to read and research, to ponder and dream. and, it turns out, my desk is now the perfect place for her, too.

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