This beloved dresser started its tenure with us around 1962. It was “cris” in my parents’ bedroom, where it served until it was handed down to me and my sister when we got our own room a few years later.
The dresser served as an alter, and was adorned with stylishly placed treasures including lotions, l’eaux de toilette, jewelry boxes and a small basket of dusty silk flowers, all placed on sundry eggshell doilies with pride.
The dresser was shared. My little sister was relegated to the two right drawers and I got the three on the left. As we reminisced this morning, she reminded me that I used to “force her” to keep the drawers closed and the dresser tidy. Of course! I was the lord of the alter.
My smaller dolls had the privilege of sitting pretty under the glass top from time to time, coiffed and dressed for show, at my pleasure. Later on, my school books were housed there for easy access.
The dresser oversaw the various posters of Michael Jackson that dressed the sea foam green walls and it was a Viewmaster for my practiced performances of selects from Dionne Warwick and Nancy Wilson (complete with air mic). It watched as I danced dreamily to the Stylistics and Blue Magic, and as I inspected many outfits for adjustment. It knows when I picked my Afro to death and tried the latest lipsticks. It told me if I looked good enough to leave the house and if I need to change my ensemble.
This dresser saw everything, from the benign to the ridiculous. It was there when I was too-often confined to my room because of illness, causing my father to dub me “sick fowl.”
It witnessed my first time making out, including all the wonders and the awkwardness of the moment; and it saw a few of my friends who I maladroitly allowed to use the room for their own dalliances (my sister raises her eyebrows, “What! I never knew you did that!”).
It held various treasures that changed through the years, from embroidered handkerchiefs for church to secret notes and trinkets from boyfriends to the contraband contents of gold boxes of Benson and Hedges to journals chocked full of entries about love and envy and heartbreak and change.
But, it wasn’t able to warn me one cool night as the opened top windows near my bed let in a soft lullaby breeze and a gray cat, who climbed through and walked on my bed and hovered at my neck. It couldn’t warn me before the animal scratched my face after I woke up and screamed, causing a kerfluffel, which summoned my mother (we mothers always sleep lightly when our loved ones are near, either physically or in the heart), who got the gray monster to flee.
Oh what stories this dresser could tell. Many I will never remember and many I could never know, because they belong to my sister alone. Here it stands and continues to serve those sundry visitors who stay for a time in my mother’s house. They, too, lay their jewels and lotions on the stylish runner that has replaced the antique doilies. We all believe no one is watching us; however, the dresser is there. I hope this classic brown alter will be around for another 60 years.